Thursday, August 4, 2016

The bike-to-school dilemma

BikeWalkLee column 
The News-Press, 8/4/2016
by Ken Gooderham
(Photo: news-press file photo)
Lee County schools are back in session starting Tuesday, Aug. 10. For motorists, that means watching out for bikers and walkers around schools (and in general, of course), plus allowing extra time for getting through school zones. For students, that means getting back to the school routine after a summer break from study and scholastics. And for parents, it means a change in schedules as well, with schools, sports and extracurricular activities filling the calendar (and turning you into a taxi service).

It can also mean making the tough decision: Should I let my child bike or walk to school?

On the plus side, it’s a great experience for your child to have that independence (and get some exercise to boot, another considerable benefit). It lets them have some control over their own schedule, while freeing up the parents’ time spent behind the wheel as well.

Weighing against that is, of course, concern for your child’s safety… not just from those who prey on children, but from those who prey on bikers and walkers no matter their age.

Ultimately, it’s up to the parents to decide, but here are some things to consider along the way:

  • How far is it to school, and is your child up for that distance? If your child regularly bikes and walks that far and beyond (good for them!), they’re physically ready – which is only part of the process (but an important part).
  • How responsible and self-reliant is your child? Are they ready for this responsibility, or is that still beyond their grasp at this point?
  • What kind of biking or walking infrastructure is there from your house to the school? Walking on a sidewalk or riding in a bike lane is far preferred to walking beside a busy multi-lane highway with little protection from passing vehicles and inadequate intersections.
  • Are there other students biking or walking to the same destination? Not only is there strength in numbers, but making this a group activity can enhance both safety and fun. Organizing a group could alleviate a lot of parental concerns, and make this a better experience for all.
  • Is this something you could do together sometimes, at least at the beginning? That might get this habit more safely ingrained… and get you some morning exercise as well, schedule permitting.
  • What’s their school schedule look like? If they have to be out early in the morning or late into the afternoon, safety considerations due to both traffic and sunlight might need to hold sway… or help determine how far into the school year this activity can prudently proceed as days shorten while schedules don’t.
  • How much do they have to carry, and can it be safely accommodated on their bikes or their backs? Riding or walking with too much weight is another safety consideration worth pondering.
  • Does the school have sufficient bike parking to make this possible? It defeats the purpose if students ride to school and then have no place (or not enough space) to lock up their bicycles when they head in to class.

There are a lot of students who live too far from school to make this work, and parents’ fears may also weigh in on the final decision. But don’t dismiss the very positive experience of giving your child some freedom to find their own way to school, not to mention the good that comes from a little physical activity built into the day.

Also, don’t be one of those parents who add to the problem by unnecessarily driving their child to school every day. This just adds to the traffic tie-ups around school , making it more difficult for students on bikes, on foot or in buses trying to get to class, as well as traffic in general in the area.

Dress for the weather

Staying active in the summer heat and humidity is always a challenge, but your wardrobe can work to your advantage. Light colors and moisture-wicking fabrics can make the heat more bearable while making you more see-able (so no cotton tees and jeans), and quick-dry materials can both keep you cooler and help you dry out faster if you can’t out-run those rain clouds. Hats are essential to shield you from the sun (and soak up the sweat), and throw in a headband or bandana under your bike helmet for the same benefit.

Ready to ride or run?

Run? Events are still few and far between, but you can be part of the 8th annual Cape 5K on Saturday, Aug. 13, part of the 3D Racing Summer Series Races. Jaycee Park, Cape Coral, 7 a.m. ( On Saturday, Aug. 20, there’s the North Collier Regional Rampage 5K, North Collier Regional Park (

Ride? Critical Mass rides rule (but you may want to confirm the times, as summertime may force changes): On Friday, Aug. 5, it’s the original SW Florida Critical Mass ride, a family-friendly slow ride through Fort Myers. Front and rear bike lights required. Grab your helmet, bring all your friends and meet in the open field next to Publix (beginning at 7:15 p.m. for an 8 p.m. roll-out) at First Street Village, 2160 McGregor Blvd. Fort Myers. The NE Lee ride is Friday, Aug. 12 (gathers at 7:15 p.m. for an 8 p.m. roll out at the Winn-Dixie, 14600 Palm Beach Blvd.) while the Sanibel ride is Saturday, Aug. 13 (gathers at 7:15 p.m. for a 7:45 p.m. roll out at Jerry’s Shopping Center, 1700 Periwinkle Way, on Sanibel). Lights required, helmets recommended. ( or

Both? Your next local tri is Saturday, Aug. 6, for the TRISK Tri Siesta Key Olympic and Sprint Tris and Duathlon ( On Saturday, Sept. 3, head north for the Venice Sprint Sept. 3 ( – or stay put and be part of the Galloway Captiva Tri Weekend Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 10-11 (space still available, but the kid’s events are almost sold out) (


Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, 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

No comments:

Post a Comment

BikeWalkLee is not responsible for the validity of any comment posted at this site and has the right to remove any comment at any time.