Why Is This Radical? A Town Debates LETTING Kids Ride Their Bikes to School

Hi Readers! This is an encouraging story (from boston.com), in that Arlington, MA., a town outside of Boston, is pushing to get more kids biking to school.  But the fact that this initiative is CONTROVERSIAL is enough to make you bang your head against a bike horn. (Or vice versa.) Here’s a bit of the story, which begins by describing how bike-friendly the town seems to be:

No corner of the town is more than a few miles from the Minuteman Bikeway, the most popular bike path in the country. The town is home to two bicycle stores and a bike club whose members set off on long rides every Saturday and Sunday morning. A bicycling committee advises town leaders on bike issues.

And yet, until recently, school officials informally banned children from biking to school.

So far, none of the schools have bike racks. Last year, a pilot project to encourage children to ride their bikes to the Hardy School, the elementary school in East Arlington, was controversial.

“My view was, if you can’t ride to school in Arlington, then there’s no place you can ride to school in Massachusetts,’’ said David Watson, an Arlington resident and executive director of MassBike, a Boston-based bike advocacy group. “It’s already a bike-friendly community.’’

To those who want to encourage children to ride their bikes to school, the advantages seem clear: It’s better for the environment. And in an age of increasing fears about childhood obesity, they argue, it’s better for kids.

But not everyone agrees. Some parents and school officials are fearful about children sharing busy roads with minivans and SUVs ferrying children to school. (Most Arlington children live within a mile of an elementary school, so there are no school buses.)

And so it goes: Common sense — and the fact that this is one of the bikingest places in America — would seem to suggest that biking is not a terrible, crazy, death-defying idea. And yet the “What if???” brigade will always have its say. I agree: WE DO NOT WANT KIDS BEING MOWED DOWN BY MINIVANS! But here’s a great stat that I state in my book, too: HALF of all the kids injured by cars near schools are injured by cars dropping off OTHER kids at the school. So if we just scaled back on the chauffeuring, we’d already have a much safer route to school. Go Arlington! Get those kids pedaling! (And the next idea being contemplated there: Getting kids to ride to their ball game practices. Imagine!) — Lenore

Some day, Arlington. Some day!

70 Responses

  1. If most children live withing a mile of the school why are any of those kids getting dropped off in minivans or SUVs? If the parents want to escort their kids they should do it on foot or ride their bikes with them.

  2. I used to live across the street from the Hardy School. Two things worth noting:

    (1) The Hardy school is literally fifty yards from the bike path:


    (2) The intervening streets are so jammed in the mornings that the chance of being hit by a car exceeding two miles per hour is about that of being hit by an asteroid.

  3. What gets me is that school officials can actually ban kids from cycling to school: that they want to is bad enough, but why do they have this power? And (apart from spying on children through laptops) how else may schools decide to intrude on the lives of their students?

  4. I live in Belmont MA, the town adjacent to Arlington, and am the Walk-to-School coordinator for my kids’ elementary school. We have talked about having kids bike to school as part of the overall walk to school, safe routes to school, effort.

    One concern that has come up repeatedly is that some adults somehow think it is easier for kids to ditch school if they ride their bikes. I think (but I am not sure) that they think kids are more likely to bike to school alone, unsupervised (whereas if they walk, bus, or are dropped off by car, the thinking goes, they will walk with adults). And if they bike alone they might just decide not to go to school (or get lost or abducted?) and never show up.

    The biggest problem with this, according to this school of thought, is that there is currently no system of notification of parents if kids don’t show up in elementary school. And implementing such a system would be too cumbersome and expensive. So, they did not allow kids to bike to school.

    There is now a compromise in place that 3rd and 4th graders are allowed to ride their bikes to school, but K-2 are not.

    I question the whole assumption that a kid is less likely to show up at school on a bike than any other way. And if parents are concerned, and think that their kids need constant door-to-door adult supervision, even while on a bike, they can bike with their kids!

  5. […] RT @FreeRangeKids: We’re in strange times when a town considers ALLOWING kids 2 bike 2 school, & this is controversial. http://bit.ly/9i1woE […]

  6. Another concern is the existence (or lack thereof) of bike racks at the schools. In the bad old days of forbidding bicycling to school, all the bike racks were removed from the elementary schools. In order to get kids bicycling again, the racks have to be put back. Who is going to pay for that, where are they going to go, etc. etc.? These problems should be solvable, but someone has to take it on.

  7. Sadly, my school also bans students from riding their bikes to school. And we live in rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where loads of plain (Mennonite and Amish) kids ride their bikes all over!

  8. I drive through the center of this town every morning on my commute at 7am. It is a very busy road and the bike path goes straight through the main intersection with 6 lanes of traffic all going in different directions (Which has always struck me as a very bad place for the bike path to intersect)

    I’m not sure where the school is in relation to main street, but assuming the kids would have to bike through the center of town, during rush hour in the morning, I would suggest it’s not the best place for people to be.

    As a 29 year old, I do not feel I have the skills required to bike through this area on my own during rush hour. I’ve seen people get clipped by cars while biking through this area.

    This is not an idyllic biking paradise at 7am. (It is on the other hand during the day or on the weekends)

    If they are going to allow biking (or suggest walking even!) I recommend the town invest in some crossing guards for the middle of town – or at least set the lights to allow for longer crossing times. Currently a fast sprint is required to get across.

    Remember, this town is only 6 miles from Boston, and is next door to Cambridge – this is not western Mass we are talking about here.

  9. Excuse my ignorance, but why is even possible to ban certain ways to get to school? Would a school be able to ban parents bringing their kids by car?

    As far as I know over here (Germany), nobody but the parents has a say on how their kids get to school and they are insured against acciddents anyway, as long as deviations from the shortest safe route are explainable by typical behaviour of that age. (like missing a bus stop or going with a friend who has a different route)

  10. Stephanie —
    The Hardy is thankfully not near the (definitely scary!) Arlington Center intersection. I myself (avid cyclist, former Arlington resident, parent) wouldn’t trust a kid under 10 to cross that intersection alone. It’s worth noting though that there are plenty of ways to work around the problem of Arlington center (eg, crossing in groups, or with the assistance of a crossing guard, or dismounting a block early and taking the pedestrian crossing by city hall) if some kids did want to cross the center.

  11. I hate to admit it, but I’ve started reading this site every other day. A daily dose of how shrieking hysterics have ruined childhood, and how we must fight tooth and nail to bring the world back to some semblance of sanity is depressing.

    Riding a bike to school is “controversial”? Scuzi? When we were kids, the ones dropping their kids off in cars were the oddballs, and we were fit and healthy enough to beat those kids up in the schoolyard. Not that I ever did that, of course … (lol)

  12. I’m a long time bicyclist, now by necessity due to a disability preventing me from driving.
    Since most kids live close to school why are they driven? To improve safety around schools institute a no dropping kids off unless the weather is bad or if you live farther than 1 1/2 miles away. That was the distance to be eligible to ride a bus when I was that age. The town is bike friendly, but can be made more so by things such as adjusting the crossing light timing which helps everyone trying to get across the street and not just the children.

  13. I am right around the corner from Hardy and the route to get there from the bike path is very safe. Children can enter the bike path from multiple locations within the surrounding neighborhoods (which almost al roads dead end at the bike path) and there is a cross walk with a light that allows for safe crossing at the corner of the school (and this is not a busy corner by any means!) The bike path also crosses the street at one point and it is very well marked and cars always stop at the sight of a person. I walk and bike this path with my little ones all the time and have never had to worry about a car that didn’t stop. There are also sidewalks all through the neighborhood which little ones can bike on, so it isn’t like they have to be mixed with the 2 or 3 cars that drive down these roads at any given time.

    I also don’t understand how a school can not allow children to bike. How can they have authority on how children travel? Having worked as a teacher I know that parents have a lot more power then they are made to believe. If you are a parent and you want your child to bike to school, let them bike to school.

  14. Some parents and school officials are fearful about children sharing busy roads with minivans and SUVs ferrying children to school.

    Then those parents can tell their kids no. Sheesh.

  15. It’s sad that bike riding is so controversial and that so many parents drive their kids so short a distance.

    The lack of bike riders and walkers at my daughter’s current school drives me nuts. The most bikes I’ve ever counted in the racks is 5 there. I’ve seen one family that lives diagonally across the street from the school drive up to drop a kid off. I think they’re dropping another kid off at another school further off as well, but it’s still a crazy distance to drive.

  16. The argument about kids on bikes being more likely to skip school is ridiculous. Most schools have mechanisms for checking attendance and reporting kids who are absent to the parents. I know my kids’ school will call us by 9:30 if our kids are not there unless we have called in the “telsafe” number to say they will be absent/late. And the parent should be the one to decide whether or not their kid is responsible enough to bike to school. If you think your child will skip school then don’t let them bike, but you should have no say whatsoever on the decisions of other parents. Likewise, if you are worried about your kid being safe cycling, stop your kid from doing so, but I just don’t understand why some parents think they have the right to make decisions about other people’s kids!??

  17. “The argument about kids on bikes being more likely to skip school is ridiculous. Most schools have mechanisms for checking attendance and reporting kids who are absent to the parents.”

    What schools don’t? Every school I attended as a child did this–if the child wasn’t there for daily attendance, the parents got called. Even my high school did this with homeroom attendance (between 2nd and 3rd periods), even for seniors.

  18. When I was a kid (long, long ago), we weren’t allowed to ride our bikes to school. We walked. Every day (we get some serious winter here). To be honest, I don’t recall the “logic” about the bikes – maybe they didn’t have space to store them. But if the kids are less than a mile away, why not walk?

    It strikes me as funny that we never hear of schools banning thousands of motor vehicles from invading their space to drop off kids that could be walking. To me, that would make more sense on so many levels. (Though considering my kids’ K-5 will be 3 miles away, I may be shooting myself in the foot here.)

  19. I agree….don’t they take attendance? And all the traffic jamming the roads sounds more dangerous than the biking itself. In my own neighborhood, which is surrounded by a forest preserve and prairie, my biggest concern is the traffic on my road (a main thoroughfare through the subdivision). And we have coyotes that come in our yard, a pond, a creek, snakes, etc. I’m far less concerned (though aware of and taking appropriate precautions) about these features than about the idiots who speed down my street like they’re on the Autobahn. We walk and bike to all the local attractions whenever possible since it’s fun, cheaper and safer than being in a vehicle. Why can’t parents just decide for themselves what their children can and can’t do?

  20. The school I attended years ago, which is the same district/campus my kids go to now never allowed biking/walking. There were kids who lived directly across the street from school who rode the bus. Just yesterday I called and asked the principals of the elementary and intermediate buidlings (where my 8 and 10 year old girls attend) about riding to school. There is nothing prohibiting it in the policy, so I thought I’d ask.

    The elementary principal was most open to the idea, and said I would need to write a note before my daughter rode in. The intermediate principal called me today and said the principals of all the buildings got together to talk about my request. They collectively discourage walking or riding to school. Bussing is provided, and that or driving the kids is acceptable.

    One probelm (according to this principal) of kids riding or walking is that they would be unsupervised (oh no!) and then they might get to school early and be unsupervised there. The real kicker is that if kids do not arrive and leave on a bus, they have to be signed in by a parent… this is for the kids’ safety, because the child predators hang out and watch for kids at schools, even rural ones like ours. (you now have to be buzzed in to get into our schools, and the offices look like prison offices with all the video footage from around the school). Once I offered to ride the girls to school and ride them home after, she was a bit more relaxed and said if that was my mode of transportation, then maybe it was ok. However, there are no facilities to store a bike for the school day.

    The encouraging part of my phone conversations today was a talk with the assistant superintendent, who believes in walking/biking and does not think I am crazy. There are some things in the works to get a bike path hooked up with the school campus, and once things are safer, it could become a reality that kids would be allowed to ride to school.

    I am so glad there will be paperback version of the Free Range book available… the principals, the school board and some teachers I know are each going to receive one at the end of the school year. 🙂

  21. Um, anything to reduce carbon emissions, get kids exercising and allowing kids to get a little responsibility is A OK in my book! Why don’t they get a couple of cops on bikes to patrol the path if they’re that worried? It sounds delightfully idyllic over there. I hope the kids get to ride!


  22. As a school-age parent for almost twelve years, I believe the statistics about who mows down children while biking and walking to school.

    I have seen terrible driving behavior in school and daycare parking lots. Everyone’s in such a hurry to get to the next place they drive rudely and recklessly. Some of our schools have student and parent volunteers in safety vests herding the minivans into lines and helping children out of cars.

    This is what we’ve come to: parents have to be taught how to wait in line like everyone else.

  23. “The biggest problem with this, according to this school of thought, is that there is currently no system of notification of parents if kids don’t show up in elementary school. And implementing such a system would be too cumbersome and expensive. ”

    REALLY? No system? I’ve never heard of an elementary school that did not take attendance and call parents if no one had called in to report the absence. We are told we MUST report an absence by 9:15 AM, because 9:15 AM is when they start calling home if the kid is not in school. How difficult is such a system? You take attendance firs thing in the morning, a kid sends it to the office, the secretary calls the parents of anyone who is absent who has not pre-notified the office they will be absent. It’s not rocket science, and it doesn’t take that long.

  24. I live in Arlington, and there IS a system for notifying parents if a kid doesn’t show up, at least at my daughter’s school. It’s done by parent volunteers, who get the attendance lists from the teachers and are supposed to call any family who hasn’t called their kid out sick. It’s not foolproof, though… twice last week I forgot to call in when my daughter was absent, and I never got a phone call. It kind of makes me wonder how I WOULD know if she never showed up to school.

    For those wondering: noone is suggesting that kids ride their bikes on or across the main road. We live in an incredibly safe community (one of the reasons I love it here), and I don’t think any kid lives much more than a mile from their elementary school. My daughter started walking this year (2nd grade) – before that I was one of those parents driving her there every day, because there was one tricky street to cross and it seemed far for a 6 yr old to walk alone. (I couldn’t walk her there – I would have been late for work). I still drive her on rainy, snowy, or agreed-upon “ride” days (2x/week). I see no reason for the school to interfere with how parents get their kids to school – as long as they get there, who cares whether they walk, bike, scooter, or get a ride?! There are plenty of parents around here, though, that automatically think kids (some even up through middle school) are incapable of being responsible for themselves and for their personal safety. I get a lot of weird looks when I say I let my kid walk, and occasionally even walk home and let herself in (I’m less than 5 min away, and home within an hour and a half).

  25. We live in Okinawa, Japan, where kids (and adults) walk and bike everywhere they go. The roads are narrow, but so are most of the cars! And the roads are almost all two lane residential roads, so we drive slowly anyway. But because of the high level non motorized traffic, drivers are more watchful of pedestrians and bikers, and the kids are taught from the beginning to stand at the side of the road with their arm raised high and. cars. stop. The first time my kids did this out in town (as opposed to on our military base, which is not foot traffic friendly, and I couldn’t let them go alone anyway, but that’s a comment for another post) they were shocked and delighted to see traffic stop for them. But in American, most definitely, roads are understood to be for cars, not people. I’d like to see that change!

  26. I got a bright idea. Why not ban mini vans? They are thge real safety problemM

  27. Sky, there was no such system in the schools I went to growing up. If you were absent, you brought in a note the next day. If you were absent for two weeks, then they called your parents – not before.

  28. To give more hope for Arlington – all the kids on my block walk to the local elementary (not the one discussed above) with their parents/caregivers (most kids are in K or 1st grade) and get this – there is a group of 4 boys 3rd, 4th & 5th graders who walk alone home to their respective houses every day. They cross streets (some with crossing guards) and everything ;/ (Refreshing, huh?) These same kids run in/out of each others houses/backyards in the summer with minimal (for this day in age) parental supervision.

    Many, many of the middle-school students walk home as well. I don’t know the percentage, but there are swarms at the crosswalks at the end of the day. Some take public (gasp!) buses as well.

  29. I’m in agreement with many of you here – the school should have absolutely zero say in how a child gets there. In fact, if they want to ban it on their property, then pay to have a bike rack installed off school property but nearby, and let the kids bike then walk to the school boundary.

    No school will ever tell me what my child will do off their property. Ever.

    If anything, the school should be ADVOCATING less people driving and more people walking with their kids or letting the kids walk alone. Disgusting how much they are invading private lives.

  30. My school uses an automated system. I mark a student absent and click save. at 9:30 the system starts calling parents and informing them their child is not at school.

    Since parents can be held legal responsible if their kids skip – I think this is a good thing.

  31. Our elementary school notifies too – if you don’t call in for an absence, the secretary calls around 9ish to find out where your child is.

    I tried to ditch school once in fifth or sixth grade, not by taking off on my bike, but by hiding from the school bus. My thought was that I would then go home and tell my mother I’d missed the bus – she didn’t drive and had no other way to get me to school, which was too far to walk – and presto, a free day off. Sadly, one of the other kids spotted me concealed behind a tree and tattled, and the bus driver stopped and waited until I was forced to come out and do the walk of shame to my seat!

  32. I remember how irritated my mom was when we moved to a district where the elementary school called the parents if a kid didn’t show up, asking why Mom didn’t call in. Used to be, if you didn’t show up that was your problem. Bring a note from your mom when you do decide to show up. (My mom used to make us write the note and she’d sign it.) Although I have some idea why things have changed, I’m not sure the change has been beneficial.

  33. Simple solution…ban all motor vehicles from a one mile radius of the school during morning and afternoon drop off hours. With possible exceptions for truly handicapped that need the transportation.

    Aaron (whose children, now adults still ride bikes to school! as teachers!)

  34. SKL: I can understand the irritation (I forget to call in often), but on the other hand, the knowledge that I’d get a phone call if my kid didn’t show up at school is one of the things that made me comfortable letting her walk alone. If she got lost, I didn’t want to find out about it at 6PM when I went to pick her up from her after-school program.

  35. Hmmm…Lenore, you know I wouldn’t be able to resist commenting.

    I work on many of these issues within one school district (as an obesity prevention advocate). Yay for those of you who are actively working to bring common sense to your schools!

    Many district have written policies against biking to school- as mine does. I asked about the logic behind it and the answer was- “the district is responsible for the child from door to door.” Literally from the time a child leaves thier home, my district feels as though they are open to a lawsuit if something should happen. Why? Because there were a series of lawsuits over accidents, stolen property, etc. So they took the easy way out and just banned the activity all together.

    I find it quite interesting that the people who scream “individual rights” when I try to get some of the junk out of the elementary school cafeterias, or encourage kids to walk to school (because apparently I am infringing on people’s rights when I reward the walkers)….don’t have squat to say when the school board decides that they will take away the right of a child to bike to school.

  36. I think it’s funny that our high school makes the calls about being absent at about 6 pm. Late enough for a parent to be home.

    My kids have always had to take a bus, but one day I made a comment (sort of snide, I admit) about why the parents that live so close all drive their kids to school. One mom, who’s actually a friend (still is luckily) said they bought their house near the school to avoid being redistricted. They never had any intentions of letting the kids walk. Sad.

  37. check out the orlando “bike bus,” a group of teenagers who decided to take back the right to ride on their very un-bike-friendly streets and ride to school together in a safe wafe. short youtube clip here:

  38. As the Copenhagenize blog ( http://www.copenhagenize.com/ ) is always pointing out, the solution to car-vs-bike accidents and fatalities is to ban the more dangerous portion: the car.

    And yet, our country has so made car travel ‘the expected norm’ that nobody ever raises that as a serious option — no, the pedestrians/bicyclists must be at fault, ban THEM!

    If a significant proportion of students get to school on their own, it’ll bring down the number of SUVs/minivans coming to school anyway, which I think is a plus all around.

  39. Thanks Lenore! We need all the help and support that we can get!

  40. So when schools ban riding bikes (or walking) to school, does that mean they will get rid of the school zones that slow traffic so that the kids can safely ride their bikes (or walk) to school?

  41. Y’know, I think it’s bizarre that they consider biking to school controversial, but I LOVE the Arlingtonians who are posting comments in this thread. Y’all make me want to move there! Are there any good grocery stores? When my sister lived in the Boston area (Brookline, and then some other place I can’t remember the name of now) I seem to recall that the grocery stores weren’t great. But that was a long time ago.

  42. This makes me feel so not alone. Next week, my daughter will again be riding her bicycle to school. She’s 10. My husband and I have had to pre-warn her school principal because the last time we allowed her to ride her bicycle, the amount of nannying she got from random people who even called the sheriff’s office (!!!) to check out the “poor child” who was obviously going to get run over because of her parent’s poor guidance. It’s so frustrating, and I’m already on the defensive about it. Question my judgement over letting her ride to school? I’m going to bite your head off. And I mean it!

    At the same age I was biking twice the distance she is to school. I obviously lived through it. She can, too. She needs a constructive way to get her energy out so that she doesn’t get in trouble. Again, go figure. When she’s antsy from riding on the bus, she usually ends up in trouble because she wants to play roughly. Or she gets a bus ticket because the bus drivers can’t handle the roudiness of all those children penned up for over an hour on the bus.

    I would rather my child run the (very slight) risk of getting hit by a car than have her chronically get in trouble. All for want of a lack of exercise.

  43. Ten bucks says the Arlington Schools administrators’ mindset would change in an instant if someone pointed out how much money they’d save on bussing the kids. What I have unfortunately learned of late is that little of these decisions have anything to do with putting the child first.

  44. Busing in itself is not the problem, IMHO it is the parents that INSIST on driving their children to school. That is what creates the massive traffic jams and unsafe conditions in the area of most schools that I have observed.

    But I am willing to bet they would be more worried about liability than saving a few dollars.


  45. That picture of the bikes scattered across the lawn of the school (a lawn featuring DANGEROUS TREES!) looks exactly like the lawn in front of my old school looked, ca. 1976. Ah, memories!

  46. I work for the Arlington schools and I am amazed at how many parents shuttle their kids to and from school, especially the high school students. There are multiple bus routes that go right by the high school and weave all through town (most kids are within a mile of a bus route as well!). The traffic at the high school at 7:50 is fast and hectic, but could be significantly reduced if more of the students walked, rode their bikes or rode the bus (or even if more parents carpooled!)

    In middle school we had a gated bike rack that was locked about 10 minutes after school started and unlocked at the final bell. There were about 50 students who rode their bikes to and from school. After school I would ride my bike three miles to the elementary school to “pick-up” my younger brother on his bike and we rode home together another five (!!!) miles. I don’t recall anything bad ever happening to any of the students riding their bikes, we did not have any near misses ourselves and there were not even any bike lanes! I might be mistaken, but isn’t choice of transportation a freedom? I would have my son ride his bike to the nearest fence post off school grounds, lock up his bike there and then walk the few feet into the building.

  47. Not sure if this is true in all states, and it may have changed in the years since A) my mother taught first grade and B) my daughters were in school, but as I recall, school districts were paid by the State (California) on a basis of “average daily attendance”. If a child was out sick that was an “excused absence”, and it did not hurt the average. If someone “played hooky” the district would be “docked”.

  48. Neighborhood Navigators was produced through a grant to the BTA from Oregon’s Safe Routes to School program.
    This curriculum focuses on efficient and healthy transportation choices, pedestrian safety, and community and neighborhood design. Geared toward students in kindergarten through eighth grade, the curriculum teaches younger students safe pedestrian behavior and reinforces the benefits of walking and biking. Older students learn how transportation decisions affect personal, environmental, health, and community design. The curriculum includes age-appropriate knowledge and skill practice for each grade.


  49. I really am confused. I don’t think the school has (or should have) the legal right to tell me what to in my own home, be it get on a bike or get in my car. Why is not one challenging the school of making unconstitutional rules? I mean I understand following rules while on school property, but if I want to walk onto school property I can’t? I can only drive on and off it? I mean this just literally doesn’t make sense.

  50. @MJ: There’s a Trader Joe’s in Arlington Heights (next to a Penzey’s), a couple of Whole Foods in neighboring towns almost on the Arlington border, and some large chain stores in Arlington. Lots of people around here do CSAs. Don’t know about the specialty food store situation. (I’m in Somerville, one town over, but used to live in Arlington.)

    @everyone who suggested banning cars near the schools: not practical; if you follow the map Grant linked to just a little past the bike path, you’ll see the street dumps onto a major highway. In the other direction in a few blocks you get to a major regional surface artery. Even if people started walking/biking to the Hardy en masse (which would be great!), Lake St. would still be gridlocked at rush hour with commuter traffic.

  51. Gasp! Are parents too dumb to decide for themselves how their kids get to schools? My kid is still too young for school, but I’m really concerned over how much power schools can have over families. At the very least, rules should begin and end at the door. If they’re concerned, teach bike safety instead. That would be useful to kids whether they ride to school or not.

  52. This lack of bike racks situation makes me sad 😦 . They only cost a few hundred dollars a piece.

    I really hope to help the kids learn how to ride their bikes/walk to and from school so they both can be doing so around 2nd grade (we live about half a mile from both possible elementary schools- assuming they both go to the same school I think it is doable). I think it’s an important skill to learn, and I think it’s a developmentally appropriate skill. Sort of sad, though, that many people seem to disagree.

  53. So, no-one lives more than a mile from school, yet they need to be dropped off by car???

    Here’s an idea: instead of banning the riding of bikes, how about banning being dropped off at school by car, unless you have a medical certificate stating you are unable to walk a mile?!

  54. […] Range Kids blogs reports on the same old same old situation of a school banning bike riding and asks why biking to school became ‘controversial,… this time in Arlington, MA (near Boston). And so it goes: Common sense — and the fact that this […]

  55. In Marin, they make parents sign a promise to walk to school pledge, use that as an excuse to not run a schoolbus, and then have parents line up in SUVs all over the place in pure environmental hypocrisy and over-reactive protectionism.

    They should fine the parents who use cars in violation of the pledge and use that to fund a bus.

  56. Our local school system removed all of the bike racks. The superintendent said that bikes were too dangerous, plus none of the kids rode a bike – the only user in the past three years was a teacher.

    I asked the superintendent if he felt teens driving cars was dangerous and why the school offered a free parking lot for kids. He responded with a blank look.

    There are a lot of obese kids in our town. I wonder if anyone has visited areas where people walk and bike?


  57. Whatever happened to reverse psychology? Rebellion?

    You’d think if the school administrators forbid something, then the children would do everything in their power to disobey the edict. Imagine: a swarm of bicycles like locusts descending on the campus.

    Maybe in a few years when the kids get to junior high.


  58. Any town that stops kids from riding bikes to school needs an overhaul of every political “leader” in the town.
    Makes me think of Footloose.
    Oh no, you can’t dance – that’s bad, bad things will happen.
    Oh no, you can’t ride a bike – that’s bad, bad things will happen.

    Get a grip!!

    There was something special about cycling to school. I loved it, but there again it was the early 80’s and hardly anyone dropped their kids off in cars. Parents who drop their kids off in cars, especially unnecessarily big 4×4’s …that’s what should be banned.

  59. This should wind up on the Tonight Show of another reason we are so fat as a society. We live under a mile to school and can’t walk or ride a bike there. Unbelievable.

  60. My son’s elementary school has a rule that they are not allowed to ride their bikes to school until 3rd grade, so he walks or scooters to school (he’s 7, in 1st grade). I loved the twinkle in his eye the day he asked me, “I know I can’t bike to school, but what about my scooter?”
    I rode my bike over a mile to school in first grade (and I’m not old– it was 1990!) and we live less than 1/2 mile from his school. It really irritates me that they aren’t allowed to bike there. I’ve considered letting him bike most of the way and lock his bike up before he gets on school property, but I’m pretty sure I’d still get a call from the principal.

  61. I live in Arlington. It seems to be generally agreed that the town does not have the right to ban biking to school, but at least some principals have claimed the right. To the best of my knowledge, push has never come to shove–there have been no legal cases, just discouragement and intimidation. We currently live too close to bike, but next year my son will sometimes bike to middle school.

  62. Dear Alan

    You are correct; they have agreed that they cannot stop you from biking to school. Here is what one school committee member emailed to me today

    ” Well, you’re still up against this informal no-bikes-on-school-grounds policy, so I think you’re still going to have to focus on the school committee. It’s always good to get a selectperson on your side too. See if you can get the Advocate to do a story on you and your efforts, a la the Globe. They will seek comments.”

    ” You can’t officially change what is an unofficial policy. Forget Bodie. She will never overrule the Principals. You have to keep working through elected officials.

    Right now you are doing very well. You have for all intents and purposes turned Deb D’Amico around to a supporter. The traffic supes oppose but they are going away. ”

    All we can do is keep growing this movement and outnumbering the naysayers. Sign up for this facebook page, the bigger our numbers get and the more good things we say and do, we will prove that we are a force to be contended with.


    So this sound like there is really no pressure point, just get more parents engaged, speaking up, writing letters. The Advocate had a nasty letter from a resident about cycling to school. I would love for you to write a rebuttle



  63. Sadly, my school also bans students from riding their bikes to school. And we live in rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where loads of plain (Mennonite and Amish) kids ride their bikes all over!

  64. […] Free Range Kids on biking to school: Why is this even a debate? […]

  65. […] and to school. Sadly, we’ve noticed that there are some cities and school districts where allowing children to bike to school has been controversial.  Some school officials actually ban children from riding their bikes to school citing safety […]

  66. HELLO? HELLO? Has anyone here heard of “Amber” and “Adam”????

    It’s unconscionable for parents to expect their children to take the responsibility of getting themselves to school SAFE….either walking or riding their bikes, even if it’s only 1/2 a mile from home to school. They not only risk being hit by a vehicle, which they could survive….but also they could be kidnapped, which chances are they wil NOT survive.

    Parents: YOU are responsible for seeing that your children get to and from school safe. Either you do it, or start a carpool with other responsible/caring parents. You can’t be too safe these days…..this is not the 40’s or the 50’s….times have changed!

  67. @Mardan : that’s true, safety is a universal priority. And while we’re at it, parents who live a mile from school can adjust some of their other priorities by choosing to walk or cycle with their children to school. We can teach children the principles of sustainability, promote a healthy lifestyle, teach safe cycling techniques, and show our children how to achieve independence from automobiles for trips under a mile or two.

    Parents can organize into walking groups to alternate the responsibility (mentioned above in other comments).

    Children look to adults to set an example. Parents who hop in the car to drive ONE MILE to school are setting an example of car-centric suburban-sprawl thinking that we as a country cannot afford.

  68. […] seems that the world has changed considerably. Now, schools actively forbid students from riding their bikes to school or use other tactics to “discourage” such behaviors. Today people evidently prefer the […]

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