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Monday, April 4, 2011

S.F. Asks Kids to Bike to School: Is This a Good Idea?

Posted By on Mon, Apr 4, 2011 at 4:52 PM

click to enlarge Look out for bad drivers!
  • Look out for bad drivers!

Later this week watch for those youngsters -- some 3,000 little ones -- to saddle banana seats and pedal their Huffys to the schoolyard as part of the third annual Bike To School Day.

Think: Critical Mass with handle streamers and less aggro hipsters.

Wait a minute -- is this really a good idea? Kids on bikes -- in San Francisco?

Adult cyclists have enough trouble negotiating the streets safely -- with careless drivers, snarling traffic, and the unsavory road rage. An analysis by The Bay Citizen counted more than 1,000 bike accidents last year, including the four cyclists who were targeted by a driver on a rampage in Potrero Hill.

It seems that kids biking to school in the city would be an even more vicious version of Paperboy,

the 80's Nintendo game in which a newspaper delivery boy attempts to

complete his suburban route while dodging dogs, breakdancers, drunks,

and ladies with knives.

Actually, in San Francisco, that sounds about


But the city says it can be done -- safely.The school district

reports that 1,400 students are already biking to school on a regular basis, and city officials

are hoping more kids will be inspired by the Thursday event.

Since the school district will be drastically cutting bus routes over the next few years, alternative transportation like biking will become even more necessary.


"Once people try it, they decide it's not that hard as they perceive it to be," says Ana Validzic of San Francisco Safe Routes to School.

Validzic recommends parents accompany younger kids on the bike ride to school. And no, this doesn't apply to stay-at-home parents: Working moms and dads can pedal alongside their kids to school then ride off to work themselves.

Validzic says groups of bikers should create "bike trains" where a group of

parents and students meet at one starting point and bike together.

"You're much more visible that way and hopefully it reduces the hazards.

There's no reason why they couldn't do weekly bike trains with a bunch

of parents to go to school." 

The city is doing it's part to promote cycling to school.

It has started the Safe Routes to School Program, mapping bike-friendly

paths to certain neighborhood schools and by the end of the year, all schools will have bike racks installed.

And then, of course, the budding bikers will have to deal

with yet another suburban nightmare: Bike theft.

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Lauren Smiley


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