Wow! Maybe Biking to School Is NOT a Crime?

Hi Readers! Remember the post from the other day, “Mom & Kid Bike to School, State Trooper Awaits”? Here it is. A Saratoga, N.Y. mom and her son rode their bikes to school only to be chastised by a trooper who informed them that this is verboten.  But now, check out this article from the Times Union: Things are looking up!

Okay, not perfectly up. The school district that had strictly FORBIDDEN kids to ride their bikes or walk to school is now considering letting kids MAYBE bike to school with a guardian.

That still seems somewhat obsessive. But Rome wasn’t deconstructed in a day. Kudos to Saratoga for being willing to re-examine a Draconian law against kids, fitness, clean air and common sense.  And bikes. — Lenore

28 Responses

  1. Yeah, sounds like progress.

    But, the school district remains meddlesome… does it also reserve the right to ID the drivers of the cars in which middle schoolers arrive and depart, insisting they be official or pre-approved guardians? Next, will it require safety inspections of the cars used to drop off and pick up students?

    Somebody remind them they have more important matters to address.

  2. I remain perplexed. How can the school “require” that students not bike or walk to school? What authority does it have?

  3. Ah, I knew you were already on this. I had no idea how long you’d been on it.

  4. Logically this artical is encouraging, but part of me thinks as Alexi(…) does, and further, wonders if this could be a step backwards. Well maybe sideways. I am rankled at the grudging “permission” granted by school authorities over a parents decision.

    Like I said, it certainly sounds like improvement, but the half-assed permission only confirms that the school has the authority to give it. A clear statement that the school cannot dictate how a parent chooses to send their child to school would be better for everyone including the school. If it is established thy the school has no authority, they also have no responsibility when non school provided transport is not used. Of course it doesn’t stop all lawsuits, but nothing really does, and it does give them less legitimacy.

  5. I think the school board should stick to their guns.
    “You may not bike or walk”
    “Cool, how much will you be giving me so I can buy a car?”

  6. The most amazing things about this whole issue is that

    #1 the school thinks they have the right to dictate how children are allowed to travel to school… their authority does not start until the child is on school property.

    and #2 that parents allow the school to dictate to them how their children arrive at school.

    Of course I come from the generation where everybody walked or biked to school except when the weather was really bad and the Jr. Patrol made up of 5th and 6th graders were the cross walk guards across a rather busy street.

  7. Still sounds like the school districts and cops are being overly meddlesome. Let parents decide how their kids get to school. Maybe if they walked or rode bikes we wouldn’t have the obesity problem…eh?

  8. I’ve never understood how the schools think they have the authority to dictate what our children do outside of offical school time. Such nonsense.

  9. I don’t get how anyone had any authority to stop the parent and child. Unless it’s totally illegal to walk or ride a bike in her city, what could they do? In our city kids can’t ride bikes on sidewalks, only streets (don’t get me started on how horrible of an idea this is on our street). So if a child rode his bike to school, there would be nothing anyone could legally do about it as long as they weren’t on the sidewalk. Under what law did they reprimand this mom and child?

  10. I’m not sure I totally agree with the idea that a school should have no say over children outside of school grounds and hours. No legal authority sure. But when I was at school we could get detention for misbehaving on the way to or from school. And that doesn’t seem unreasonable to me – the school exists within a community of which it wshes to be a good citizen so discouraging behavior which impacts poorly on the neighborhood seems reasonable.

    On the other hand this doesn’t seem like an attempt to be a good nieghbor but to insist on parenting standards that the school thinks are reasonable rather than leaving that sort of risk assesment where it belongs- with parents.

    Personally I don’t see how allowing a kid to bike or walk to school so long as they are accompanied by someone “responsible” is any step forward for free ranging. Going by bus on their own is more freeranging than walking to school mom.

  11. Most people are asking this question: How does the school have the authority to say whether or not a child can walk or ride to school? That is my question as well. Does anyone know?

    I remember once in highschool, I think I was 14 or 15 when I over slept and missed the bus. I had forgotten to set my alarm. when I awoke, about 15 minutes to late to get to the bus on time I asked my father for a ride to school. He said doing that would make him late and that at the end of it all it was my fault I missed the bus so I should have to get to school on my own. I hopped on my Bicycle and started the 11 mile ride along 7 and then rte 30. This was not some safe ride along a sidewalk in a town, this was a trek on back roads and state highways, on a 1 foot wide shoulder, with cars going past at 40 or 50 miles an hour.
    When I arrived at school (about an hour late for the first class) I was asked why I was late, I told the school official about biking, they said that was a good lesson about being responsible and were glad that my father choose that course of action.

  12. An update: Today’s Albany Times-Union had an editorial in support of the boy riding to school. See

    As an aside, this school is on a busy commercial road. I’m not condoning the district’s policy, but I don’t understand why schools are built in places like this to begin with. Maybe it was much less built up when the school was built.

  13. That rule is especially sad considering that some of the best bikes in the world (Serotta) are made in that town. Granted, only an especially wealthy kid could afford to ride one given that a Serotta often costs more than a car. But come on, bikes are great!

  14. I am fine with schools using their influence on the school bus, when standing outside the school before or after classes, and on field trips. But my children are my responsibility any other time and if I say they can walk, they can walk. The school should have no say over that. I would have to sit down with the PD that employed that specific officer and ask them to please show me which law I was breaking. I wouldn’t want to break a law. But if it’s just personal choice and he doesn’t like it, he needs to keep his mouth shut.

  15. There are usually only one or two bikes at my daughter’s elementary school. I am always appalled. Those racks were full when I was a kid!
    I walk her, with all my daycare kids to school everyday. It’s a chore and a half but I think that some of those parents with idling cars need to see that they have options.

  16. I agree that parents should be in charge of how their kids get to school. Only a few kids ride bikes to my daughter’s school too, and it’s a nice residential area. Pretty good number of walkers, though, which makes me happy. Still too many cars though.

  17. I was looking for another policy, and found our district’s policy about riding bikes to school.

    1. Children should follow the rules of the wall, including riding with traffic.

    2. Children should be taught to properly use hand signals while riding.

    3. Children should lock the bike on the bike rack, and the school is not responsible for bike theft. (potential theft is the reason for no bike riders at my school, even though I see the kids riding through the parking lot and playground during off hours.)

    4. We strongly encourage parents walk or ride with their young (K-1) children, until they are sure the child knows the route, and can obey the rules of the road.

  18. Helen, I’d say there’s an important distinction between disciplining kids for misbehavior on the way to school, and regulating the way in which kids get to school.

    That is, kids misbehaving on the way to school is actually wrong, and, as you say, negatively affects the community and reflects on the school.

    But biking to school is not wrong, does not harm the community, and does not make it difficult for the school to be regarded as a positive part of the community. Rather, it is simply an attempt of the school to use the power they have to control the behavior of kids and parents in order to dictate behavior that in no way actually affects the school or what goes on in the school. It would be like the school giving out detentions for kids if their parents sent in notes saying they argued about bedtime. That sounds ridiculous and absurd and no parent would ever do it, but the fact that it would require parental cooperation that would not occur is about the ONLY thing that really makes it more ridiculous and absurd than dictating whether a kid can ride a bike to school.

  19. Perfectly said, Pentamom!

  20. Pentamom, I agree totally. My comment wasn’t supposed to express support for the school on this issue.

    I don’t think the school has any moral or legal authority to tell families how they should get their kids to school. And I don’t think the suggested change in policy is any improvement. They still attemp to usurp parental authority by dictating that the child should be accompanied. Deciding when a kid is capable of travelling to school alone is a parent’s perogative.

  21. It seems to me that this could be solved simply by the parent asking, “Shall we leave?” and requesting that [whomever] simply sign off on the decision. I’d be rather surprised if a truancy judge ruled that getting the child to school on time every day was wrong of the parent.

  22. Charles- you said “This was not some safe ride along a sidewalk in a town”

    Um, sidewalks in a town are not safe. Depending on the age of the child and the city, riding on the sidewalk may be illegal, and if you could ride 11 miles in roughly an hour, you were too fast for the sidewalks.

    If you think you’re safer on the sidewalk, then you should at least slow to walking speed, or at most jogging. At which point you might as well get off and walk.

  23. I live in a small town north of San Francisco called Sonoma. My son rode his bike up highway 12 through Boyes Hot Springs to middle school and again to the high school down the same highway through town. My daughter started riding her bike to school in the sixth grade and continued to until she started driving. Granted, we live in a small town with a few bike paths along the way but mainly they are riding with the traffic.

    Many parents were shocked that I allowed this practice. But I grew up in San Francisco and walked to school starting with kindergarten and continued to walk or bus my way through high school. So, letting my kids start independence at 6th grade was easy. If we had lived closer to their schools, I would have had them walking from the beginning. Living in a small town has given us the ability to be less over-protective, for which I am grateful.

    They are loved and cared for but not coddled and over protected. They are now independent individuals who have a positive self-esteem, can make positive life decisions and have the ability to function without their parents hovering over them. Their friends, on the other hand, are all over-protected and cannot make simple or important decisions for themselves and look to their parents for everything.

    I don’t know if giving them the ability to achieve their independence has made them make the right decisions, but I do know they are both very good students, study hard, work hard at everything they do and they do not do drugs.

    I think parents need to teach their children independence but they have to give it first.

  24. INSANE! I’m an American living in The Netherlands and here everyone rides bikes everywhere. You see 6 month old babies on handlebar seats and no helmets even! It’s ALL legal here and yet still safe. My son is 6 and wants to ride his bike to school alone already. I actually would consider it if it weren’t for a very busy street he’d have to cross. I very well trust him to be safe but I don’t trust the maniacs who won’t even stop for me when I’m with him and pushing my baby in her stroller.

    All the things I’m reading about in America now make me so glad to live here. They are so much better here. My kid can get a KISS from his teacher and no one flips out. Until age 6 all children do gym class in their underwear and nothing else!!!

    I’m def following your blog now. Thank you for standing up for the kids!


  25. This story has been getting lots of coverage….and people from both the right and left seems to be supporting that the district overturn the policy.

    Fox news is covering it at a national level…,2933,559460,00.html?test=latestnews

    In a good development, The district is supporting a “walk to school Day on international Walk To School Day (Oct 7th)

    also see for more info.

  26. Here’s a positive sign: our town paper just published an article bragging that the number of students who walk or bike to school has risen significantly over the past decade, and the article talks about steps the town has taken to accomplish this.

  27. I’m SO GLAD my kids are in college now. This would not have gone over well with them when they were younger. We live in a small town in Southern California, and everything is pretty much within walking distance, unless you wanted to go to the major mall, which can be walked to, just not in a short period of time. They walked to school, the movies, restaurants, etc., without having to depend on us for a ride every time. The only time I really stepped in was if the weather was really bad, or if they needed to get somewhere fast, ’cause hey, they’re kids and they sometimes plan poorly. When my siblings and I were in school, my parents NEVER drove us unless it was necessary, like to the doctors or after dark. Not even when it rained, so we pretty much had to be independent from the get-go at about the age of 8. The only time I can remember the school getting involve with anything remotely like this was when some parents would drop their kids off in front of the school IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET! They’d stop the car IN THE CROSSWALK to let them out!! They had to station a sheriff’s deputy in his car (with patrol lights flashing) and they still let the kids off in the middle of the street… IN FRONT OF THE COP! Must have written several hundred tickets in the first week. I remember hearing about one parent who (while getting the ticket) complained that he didn’t deserve it because 1) he didn’t see the patrol car, and 2) he was being responsible for getting his kid to school on time. And hey, he WAS letting him out on the crosswalk so what’s the problem?

    The deputy just stared at him.

    It’s idiot parents like this that give the good ones a bad reputation. Too bad there’s no law against stupidity. I’d have slapped the cuffs on him in a second.

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