Victory! Boy Allowed to Ride His Bike to School!

Hey Readers — Sometimes it doesn’t take a Supreme Court ruling to get a scared, silly rule reversed. Sometimes it just takes a little spine. Here’s the story of the mom who wanted to let her son ride his bike to school and at first (and second) the school said no. But then — victory!

And while I’m here, giving some links, here’s a funny one about the dangers of baking bread.

And, heck, it is exactly ONE WEEK from Mother’s Day. Know a mom would would appreciate a book that is LOL funny AND helps folks relax AND raise “safe, self-reliant” Free-Range Kids? As one reader (not a friend or relative!) wrote,  “Your book had me laughing so hard that my husband had to come and see if i was okay! (I think my gasping sounded like sobbing.)” Here’s the Amazon link! Happy Sunday! — Lenore

Let’s Help This Boy Bike to School!

Hi Readers! I’m dashing off to give a talk tonight (Thurs.) at the Ethel Walker school in Simsbury, Conn. (outside of Hartford). It’s free and open to the public, if you’re in the nabe.  Meantime, let’s help this California mom! Any advice? Support? Great ideas? — Lenore

Dear Free-Range Kids: I recently lost my car and decided that bicycles will be mine and my son’s primary mode of transportation until I can afford to replace the car. The boy is 8 and I ride with him half-way, some days all the way, to school in the mornings. His first day riding, I provided him with a note, releasing the school from any related liability.

Today I received a call informing me of the district policy that kids can’t bike to school unless they are in 4th grade or higher. So no kids are allowed to ride their bikes to school unless they are 10 years old.  I feel like the district is over-stepping its bounds by telling me how my kid can and cannot get to school.

I guess I’m contacting you to see if you or your readers can offer some suggestions on how I can fight this. I want him to ride his bike. It will teach him another level of responsibility, boost his confidence and make getting home after school easier on both of us. Any advice or suggestions on handling this situation? — A Reader in California

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

Hi Readers! This is an encouraging story (from, 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!

SUVs Go Home! School Allows Only Bikers and Walkers

Hey Readers: Here’s a nice story from our friends up north! No — not another igloo. A Canadian school that really wants kids to get there on their own. Listen to this:

… P.L. Robertson elementary in Milton, which opened this week, has been designated a “walking-only school,” where students will be strongly encouraged to use their feet – or bikes or any other active way – to get there.

It is part of a broader initiative at the Halton District School Board to stop traffic jams around schools and get students moving.

Gridlock in the parking lot and surrounding streets is an all-too common problem for schools in the Greater Toronto Area, thanks to parents who insist on driving their children, even if they don’t live all that far away.

At other schools, Joyce Jermyn has watched parents who live close by drive their kids, cramming their cars in between buses, then idling as the youngsters make their way inside, even though staff is out there helping kids get to class.

“For me, exercise has always been a part of who I am and what I do,” says Jermyn, vice-principal at P.L. Robertson. “There are too many kids who don’t want to go outside because they never play outside.”

Let’s hope other schools follow in these footsteps. Literally. — Lenore

The Bicycle/Three Sleeping Children Thief

Hi Readers! How the Danes must be puzzled by our abduction obsession. Here’s what happened when a thief  in Copenhagen found a cargo bike outside a store and stole it — not realizing three kids were sleeping inside the big container-thing attached to the front.  Thanks to all of you who sent in this bizarre (but kind of heartwarming) story! — Lenore

Inspiring Video!

Hi Readers! Even as the school board in Saratoga grudgingly allows kids to bike to middle school if they follow a bunch of rules, a bunch of kids in Orlando, Florida just decided: Let’s ride!

Here’s their story and a great video of them — especially if you like Bob Dylan soudntracks. As the accompanying article says, “The bike bus isn’t something that was initiated by grown-ups; it was conceived and executed by the kids. It’s a powerful demonstration of the positive influence that young people can have on each other. Maybe they’ll influence some adults too.”

Riding bikes to school has become the cool thing to do — not to mention fun. It’s like a caravan: kids can join as they see the group go by. Ride on! — Lenore  (who thanks Sharon Wynne of the St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Bay Online for sending it in)

Overprotecting Gone Mad: Kids Finally Allowed to Bike to School, BUT…..

Hi Readers! Remember that case  in Saratoga, New York, where a sixth (now seventh) grader wanted to ride his bike to his school — with his mom, even! — but the district forbade it?

Well guess what? The district poobahs have now “backpedaled,” as this clever Times Union article put it. But they did it in a way that makes us convinced they still have their heads down where most of us have our bike seats. Listen to the rules kids must obey (or else!) if they want to ride to school:

“…under the new rules, students and parents must sign a safety agreement and registration form. Once on school property, students are required to walk their bikes on approved access routes, store and lock them in racks provided by the district and display identification tags. The district also calls for parents or guardians to accompany student cyclists on its properties, and for both to wear helmets.

The parents have to walk their middle schoolers and their bikes once on school property? I can’t even walk within a mile of my kids’ middle school when they’re around. They’d die of embarrassment. This is treating adolescents like three-year-olds!

As Kaddo Marino, the gutsy mom who has been fighting the school district, put it:

“These regulations appear to be just another obstruction to a parents’ freedom, and if challenged, probably could not be supported,” she said. “When I was first informed that bike racks will be provided, I was pleased, but that feeling quickly diminished when I heard a list of requirements that the district is imposing on those students and families who choose a more healthy, environmentally friendly mode of transportation.”

Why would a school want its kids to never get off their duffs? What kind of “safety” is it providing, if the kids are going to grow up without using their muscles, without having adventures, without learning a sense of direction and self-reliance? How safe is a human blimp choking in a smog-filled city?

And since when does a citizen of the Free World have to fill out PAPERWORK to get on his bike and ride to school? — Lenore

Good News! About A Girl & A Bike!

Sometimes, things go the RIGHT way.  Here’s a story about a girl who wondered why she couldn’t bike to school. When her mom told her it was because the city needed sidewalks, she got to work!

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

Mom & Son Bike to School. State Trooper Awaits!

Hi Readers! In defiance of a policy that seems to forbid biking to the local grammar and middle schools in Saratoga, New York, a mom and her middle school son did just that last Wednesday.  That is, they ignored “a phone call placed to students’ homes by school officials, asking parents not to allow students to walk or ride bikes to school,” according to The Saratogan. And then?

Upon arriving at school on Wednesday, Adam and Janette Kaddo Marino were met outside by school officials and a New York State Trooper, who were on hand for the first day of school. They were informed that they were “out of compliance,” and had a lengthy discussion over where Adam’s bike could be locked.

And you thought State Troopers were the strong, silent type.

What’s cool is that the next day, mom and son were joined by several supportive adults. Friday was too rainy for a ride, but we can only hope more and bicyclists will be converging every day. (I can see the Disney movie now!)

For its part, the school district is said to be “reviewing” its bike policy.

Good. Once again, it’s not that any of us here are in favor of danger: If we were talking about kids riding their bikes up slippery slopes frequented by ice road truckers who drive while texting, that’s one thing. But The Saratogan reports that the road  in question is actually designated a bike route by the New York State Department of Transportation.

Let’s hear it for folks who defy laws that make no sense and don’t even make us safer.  (And for a middle school student who is still willing to be seen in public with his mom.) — Lenore