Thursday, October 2, 2014

BikeWalkLee Column: Bike To School Day

This week's BWL column, written by Tessa LeSage, shares the joy of biking to school with her 1st grader and offers tips with other parents about walking and biking to school.  Be inspired and give it try! [Note: photos below did not appear in printed article due to space constraints.]   
News-Press "Go Coastal" Section, Oct. 2, 2014     By Tessa LeSage

Today, my first-grader is assigned to Tanglewood Elementary School. We chose Tanglewood because it’s an awesome school, but also because we live within the two-mile preference proximity — meaning we can ride bikes to school every day.

Biking to school with car lines and school assignment is intimidating. On the other hand, it means no idling in a car line or putting your child on a bus for an eternity. Despite these dreaded aspects of local school these days, sharing the road with rushing automobiles and school buses is enough to make most avoid it all together.

As a working mother, I felt uncertain about fitting a morning ride into our crazy schedule and scared of the potential dangers. I wasn’t sure my 6-year-old could endure the entire mile in one direction to school with a backpack, lunchbox and (sometimes) a violin. Less than two months into the school year, we’ve adapted to all of these challenges and look forward to riding together every morning, even in the rain.

Now we want more people to join us. It would be safer and less expensive for everyone if more of us got out of our cars and went to school the old-fashioned way.

Walk to School Day is Wednesday, Oct. 8, and provides an opportunity to try walking or riding to school. Here are some tips we picked up along the way:

Identify the route: We chose a route we wouldn’t drive. It crosses more roads but allows more time on less-traveled streets. This is where the stress goes away and the fun stuff happens.
Practice: We spent the summer practicing our route, preparing for four potential interactions with vehicles on the way to school one-way, and building endurance for that 1-mile ride. We reviewed the rules of the road, hand signals, and we added a “3-feet it’s the law” sticker to our bikes so drivers understand how to react to us.
Prepare for tradeoffs: We leave extra early to avoid traffic. My kids know it’s a tradeoff to get up earlier in the morning, but riding is worth it. Others include toting her belongings and her little brother on my bike so she can focus on riding.
Work with your school: Talk to the administration and teachers about riding and where and how to secure the bike. In our situation, the bike is in a locked gate most of the time, but we still put a lock on it to be safe.

Biking to school is more than transportation. It’s about uninterrupted time with my kids. We engage with our neighbors and others using people-powered transportation. Upon arrival, my daughter is ready to sit and focus because she’s burned off excess energy and gotten a little exercise. Most importantly, both of my kids cite the ride to school as the best part of their day, every day. It’s the best part of mine, too.

— BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at

Upcoming events

Sunday, Oct. 11: Fort Myers Cops and Joggers 5K. Centennial Park, downtown Fort Myers. Race starts at 7:30 p.m., and proceeds will benefit the Fort Myers Police Department Fallen Officer Memorial Fund and the Brotherhood Ride. Registration: $20 adult, $15 youth on or before Oct. 9. (
Saturday, Oct. 18: 6th annual Sanibel 10K 4 F.I.S.H. Starts 7:30 a.m. at Sanibel Community House 2173 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel. Registration $30 by Oct. 11, $35 through Oct. 17 and $40 day of. (
Sunday, Oct. 19: Rocktoberfest 10 mile race. North Collier Regional Park, 15000 Livingston Road, Naples. Registration $55, students $45; starts at 7 a.m. (

Cycling and other events:
Saturday, Oct. 11: Project 10 Ride 4 Wishes. Cape Harbour, Cape Coral. 15-, 30-, and 62-mile rides. $35 registration, raises funds for Make-A-Wish Southern Florida. (
Sunday, Oct. 12: Trek Breast Cancer Awareness Ride. 10-, 15- and 25- mile rides. From The Bicycle Center, 3795 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte. $30 before Sept. 1, $40 after. (
Sunday, Oct. 26: Fifth annual Tour de North Port. 15-, 35- and 65-mile rides that begin and end at the Imagine School, Upper Campus, 2757 Sycamore St., North Port. Full support, trick-or-treat rest stops. Breakfast and lunch offered. Starts at 7 a.m.; $40 each, $10 under age 10, group discounts available. (

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