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!