Back to School Time Is Bike to School Time

Students parking their bicycles at Rocky River Middle School. Photo by Doug Charnock of One Gear Photography.

Late summer is when many families are preparing for their children to return to school. While you're out looking for new clothing, notebooks, pencils, and computers, be sure to add your local bicycle shop to the list of back-to-school shopping trips.

The Rocky River Bike To School Challenge has taken place each May since 2011. During the three-week challenge, local students are encouraged to ride their bikes to school as often as possible to earn chances to win Raleigh bicycles and other prizes donated by program sponsors, including Rocky River-based Century Cycles bicycle shop and other local businesses.

As a result of the Bike To School Challenge, as well as efforts from city officials to make Rocky River more bicycle-friendly, many residents are finding that bicycling is a viable option year-round for riding to school, commuting to work, getting around town for shopping, going to the library or post office, and other local errands. Studies have shown that regular physical activity can help students focus, improve behavior, and boost positive attitudes.

Biking Safety

There are a few steps parents should take to make sure that their children are prepared to bike to school safely. Your first stop should be your local bicycle shop to purchase a good-quality bicycle, or to have your current bike checked over. Most bike shops are happy to perform a free safety check to make sure the brakes, shifters, and other components are working properly. They can also provide a free estimate if any adjustments or repairs are needed. Some minor adjustments can be made while you wait, but if your bike needs any major repairs, be prepared to leave it for a few days.

While you’re at the bike shop, check out the accessories you’ll need for a safe trip. First and foremost, a bicycle helmet is recommended. Allow the shop staff to make sure the helmet is properly fitted. Second, a quality bicycle lock keeps your investment safely secured to the bike rack while you're in school. Most kids have backpacks to carry their books and other items to and from school, which work great on bikes, too. Moreover, there are other options that allow you to carry cargo on the bike should you choose to do so. Finally, a headlight and flashing taillight help you see and be seen while riding. A reflective vest or jacket in high-visibility colors also helps keep you safe.

Next, you'll want to scout out a safe route from your home to school. You can use any combination of dedicated bike paths, on-street bike lanes, regular streets, and sidewalks. Ohio law states that bicycles are entitled to use public streets, with all of the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers--that means knowledge of traffic laws and safe driving procedures. Parent should use their own judgement as to whether their children have the knowledge and skills to ride and navigate safely on streets or sidewalks.

Do a "dry run" before school starts to test out your planned route. There’s safety in numbers, so join up with other families to make a "bike train" from your neighborhood to the school. Parents who are available during school hours can take turns being bike chaperones for groups of kids.

Bicycling to school can provide kids with the foundation for a healthy and fun lifestyle. In addition to promoting physical and mental health, biking to school saves money, helps the environment, reduces wear and tear on our streets, and reduces congestion on our roads for those who drive!

Kevin Madzia

Kevin Madzia is the Information Technology Manager and a Bicycle Fit Specialist for Century Cycles.

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Volume 3, Issue 2, Posted 12:39 PM, 08.05.2015