Monday, August 16, 2010

What's my son's excuse for not riding a bike to Dunwoody Elementary School?

 Why are only 6 of 900 children biking to school?

There are probably many excuses for my oldest son not riding a bike to school but I will put the blame squarely on my own shoulders, right where it belongs.  I haven't pushed it in the past but now that Riley is 10 and the first week of school is over; I need to encourage my 140 lb fifth grader to live a healthier lifestyle. 

My good friend Pattie Baker wrote an article for Foodshedplanet.com detailing the fact that only 6 of the 900 students at Dunwoody Elementary are riding their bikes to school, yet I am hearing that the buses are already filled to capacity.  I highly encourage everyone to read the full article as it speaks to not only parents with school age children, but to all.

Based on my family's wacky schedule this week (don't ask), as well as setting a routine for getting three boys to three different schools, I plan to escort my son via bicycle to school on Thursday and/or Friday. 

If you live in the Dunwoody North area, please let me know if your interested in joining us.  Thanks.

16 comments:

Rick said...

John,

If your son was still attending the local school (one of three local schools that converted to a K-3 instead of a K-5)he'd probably ride every day. The number of bike riders at Austin and Vanderlyn has decreased by as well. We can thank our school board rep for that (he told the board the area was majority against redistricting). I think it is unsafe for most kids to bike, and too far for most as well.

Pattie Baker said...

Rick: I've emailed you separately with details about joining us on our morning ride. Bring the bikes in your car and park in my driveway (there's no limit on # of driveway cars, I hear!). Swing by the school and pick up your child's bike after riding back to my house.

You will be at work by 8:30 AM.

The school situation is what it is for this year. Let's fill this city with positive energy and see what is truly possible.

The only limits we have are the ones we put on ourselves.

Rick said...

work at 8:30? Pattie, I try to sleep until 9 AM during the week (10 AM weekends). I'll see what we can do as far as joining the bike brigade.

Pattie Baker said...

Rick:

So I'll see you tomorrow, bright and early, right? I'll make you a nice muffin with zucchini from my garden. :)

Bob Fiscella said...

John,

I'll leave Rick's comments alone - I know what he's up to.
I do wish my son could ride his bike to Dunwoody Elementary. We're about 1 mile from the school (very "bikeable"), unfortunately it's all on Womack and it's simply not safe.
Good luck to you and Riley on your bike ride!

Pattie Baker said...

Bob: If you can tell me why you feel it's not safe, maybe we can figure out a solution. I believe Womack has sidewalks the whole way, doesn't it? Would you be able to ride with your child and cross safely at corners? If so, what else is concerning you?

themommy said...

While not bikers, I see many, many walkers in the morning. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. Several people I know intend to walk in the afternoon as soon as the heat subsides as well.

GaryRayBetz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tasneem said...

I do agree with several of the posters that riding bicycles on the streets is not safe. My understanding is that bicycles are technically not allowed on sidewalks - they have to follow the same regulations as automobile drivers, but I'm not sure about that. Also, I live on the far east side of Dunwoody, off Winters Chapel Road and it is too far to both of my children's schools (Kingsley and Peachtree Middle) for them to ride safely and in a reasonable amount of time.

While I agree with Rick's comment that the redistricting would have served Dunwoody better, I'm not sure that it's the central reason for so few bike riders to elementary schools. Kids stopped riding bikes to school long before the current elementary school set up. It's just not safe. The main arterial roads to get to the schools - Tilly Mill, N. Peachtree, Womack, Mt. Vernon, and Peeler near the Reservoir have a heavy volume of traffic at all times of the day and people drive fast.

Thanks!

Pattie Baker said...

Children under the age of, I believe, 13, may legally ride bikes on sidewalks.

Also, cities have the option for allowing people of all ages to ride on sidewalks.

We always stop our bikes and walk when approaching pedestrians, thereby always giving them the right of way. We also walk our bikes across crosswalks, thereby assuming the role of a pedestrian.

silverlining said...

I always ask myself is it the people or the process. Almost always I come to the conclusion it is the process. If you take a large enough group of people, you end up with the avg. So how do we make it safer for the avg biker to ride among the avg driver. My answer is better training first, and better paths second because paths are more expensive. Even with perfect paths, I don't think we would see a huge increase in bikers for several reasons. I recently went on a weekend ride with several hundred riders. There were 3 teenagers (2 in my group). Even though biking is a team sport, it doesn't develop as such until later years. Bottom line, if you want more active kids, I would focus first on Team sports as that is where the kids first interest would lie. Money spent there in stead of paths would probably be more productive. What does Dunwoody have for a coordinated approach to team sports? Is this something the City should get involved in or leave it to the schools and the local churches? Nothing against bike paths, just saying. Lastly, growing up I rode to school every non raining day from 9th grade on. The paths in my town were very good. Still, I can think of two occasions where I narrowly avoided severe injury or death. Once ending up in the hospital overnight. Most parents aren't willing to take that risk with their children.

PS, I think the large group rides done occasionally (ie Lemonade Days) are a great safe way to introduce kids to the joy of riding and more of those could be a great first step.

Bob Fiscella said...

Pattie,

I didn't realize children under 13 could ride on the sidewalk.

The problem is he and his 10-year old buddy want to ride by themselves. I would love for them to do that, but not without adult supervision. By and large, drivers on Womack are looking out for runners and bikers, but that 5-10 percent that are not really worry me.

Thx

Cerebration said...

My son rode his bike to Oak Grove (on days he didn't walk) with the neighbor boy for years. They thought they were very cool walking into the building with their helmets under their armpits. All the little girls were smitten.

This is a great way to give a child some independence -- and exercise.

Joe Seconder said...

Here's the final word on Georgia Bicycling Laws from Bob Dallas' own GOHS site:

http://www.gohs.state.ga.us/gabikelaws.html

John Heneghan said...

My son and I rode the 1.6 miles to Dunwoody Elementary School in about 15 minutes and about 5 min of that time was spent crossing the Tilly Mill / North Peachtree lights. The entire ride except for the one block to get to North Peachtree Rd was ridden on the sidewalks and as I researched all ages are allowed to ride on the sidewalk if not strictly prohibited by signs and it is done safely. My son rode home by himself safely and I think I will take the ride again tomorrow morning to reinforce the safety instructions laid out this morning.

In a related matter, I received a rather scathing email today from a resident because a sidewalk is going to be installed in front of her home which is located on a busy street directly adjacent to an elementary school. Prior to my election I campaigned for making the City of Dunwoody a walkable and bikeable city, have taken measures to fulfill that vision and will not apologize for now installing public infrastructure on the City's right of way where we have the right to do so.

Open+Transparent said...

silverlining, actually, everything you said is the opposite of the truth.

It costs infinitely more to pay for youth sport facilities on a per capita basis. Infrastructure for safe bicycling riding increases the level of student fitness dramatically more than team sports. "If you build it, they will come" applies here.

Also, youth team sport participation levels have dropped drastically over the past decade (yes, video games and the computer are a part of it).

You want healthy kids: Put in sidewalks for safe walking and bicycling to school. The sad part here in DeKalb is the county government, schoo system, and GA Dept. of Transportation don't play nice together. Then again, the GA Dept of Transportation can't get along with anyone other than road building companies and their lobbyists.

The neatest part of "Safe Routes to School": When surveyed on why the like to walk and bike to school, one of the top 3 answers is children like the extra time with their mom or dad!!

Good websites for further research:
www.saferoutesinfo.org/

www.saferoutespartnership.org/

http://www.saferoutesga.org/

http://www.dot.ga.gov/localgovernment/FundingPrograms/srts/Pages/default.aspx

http://www.bikewalk.org/