Back to school, bike to school

Photo: iStockphoto.com/valarieann
Prepare for a fun, smooth and safe ride

Getting ready to head back to school means organizing notebooks, pencils, lunch boxes and stocking up on healthy, nut free snacks. Let's also make it about getting ready to commute by bike. Here's a few things that make bike commuting to school safe, fun and easy – for your family and your neighborhood.

Bike

Will your child ride to school on her own bike or will he hop on the back of your bike? We mix it up around here. Sometimes the kids take their own bikes, sometimes they ride on my longtail Kona Ute. It's getting a bit heavy to carry both kids on the Kona these days, but it's a short commute, so if we're tight on time, we can still pull it off.

We have a garage which makes taking the bikes out easy, but one of our neighbours who found hauling bikes up from the basement or having muddy bikes sitting in the front hall annoying bought a mini 2 ring bike rack for her front porch so that biking could always be quick and easy.

Helmet

Does your child's helmet still fit? I usually ask my kids to attach their helmet to their backpacks when they go inside so their helmets don't get wet if it's raining out.

Lock

Can your child lock up her own bike? Combo locks eliminate the need for keys that could go missing, but sometimes need a bit of practice.

Ready to ride

The kids buckle their backpack waist straps before riding so the straps don't dangle in the spokes. And we make sure we've got rain gear handy so cloudy skies don't hold us back from riding. Stretchy gloves come in handy in the early fall because riding is often chillier than walking, especially if the child is just a passenger.

Choose some great routes

We have a few favourite routes. There is some sidewalk riding involved when Anna Sierra rides her own bike. Not much, but a little. We stick to our favourite routes so we both know exactly where we're going and can be very predictable for cars.

Bike Parking

When Anna Sierra started attending her school, the bike parking options were dismal. But over the years we've applied for grants for new bike parking. It seems like the more bike parking we aquire, the more bikes fill the racks! We were at capacity again in the spring and it looks like we may need even more racks.

Bike Education at School

Last year the Hintonburg Cycling Champions established School Cycling Champions at two schools in our neighbourhood. These parent volunteers organized After School Bike Clubs, Bike Rodeos, CAN Bike classes for students and communicated with the school community about any cycling matters including Active and Safe Routes to School.

Bike Advocacy

This year we're planning to apply for a Heart and Stroke SPARK grant to help us recruit Cycling Champions at other schools in the neighborhood and to more fully support those Cycling Champions in advocating for cycling education at our local schools and enable them to better network with each other. SPARK grants are designed to help community groups organize themselves to advocate for policy changes that improve children's access to physical activity and healthy living. We're just starting our journey, so we'll be applying for the $5000 amount, but if you're well established, know who your community partners are and have an advocacy plan in place, you may wish to apply for the $25,000 amount.

Dream Big

Do you know what my big dream is? Cycling education included as part of the curriculum across the country. Remember how well recycling caught on when it became part of the school curriculum and kids came home and insisted their parents sort recycling? Lots of folks think the same thing would happen with cycling.

What are your back to school, bike to school plans and dreams?

Momentum Mag promotes, encourages and inspires smart living by bike. Published five times a year, the magazine focuses on transportation cycling and bike culture in North America.