Start a Bike to School Program
How to start a bike to school program
You can play a major role in getting kids excited about biking to school. We’ve created a list of resources as well as a sample timeline to help you plan activities for Bike Month in your school. Feel free to contact us with questions you may have about getting started--we’re here to help!
Find your allies
Present your idea: Bring your Bike to School proposal to the PTA, teachers, school administration or other school group to find people who are willing to support and join your efforts. Find the one person at your school who can help you make things happen and move the conversation forward.
Rally volunteers: Sign up a group of volunteers who can commit to tasks. Parents, neighbors, community leaders and teachers can all play a role in Bike to School Month.
Do not underestimate the power of one committed person! YOU can change an entire culture!
Funding the fun
Your PTA may have funding available to support your event. Many PTA budgets are negotiated in the Spring for the following year, so start those conversations early. Consider joining your PTA or PTA board to influence how funds at your school are spent. Create a Health & Wellness committee and propose it as a standing committee on the PTA.
SDOT (Seattle Department of Transportation) has mini-grants of up to $1,000 available for community groups, schools, and non-profit school-related groups for walking and biking related events. Click here for more information on mini-grants, examples of past applications and summary reports and grant cycle periods. Must be within the City of Seattle. A new mini-grant application cycle is opening soon, with grants due in April and funding available in July.
Consider asking local businesses for donations of healthy snacks, prizes, etc.
Safe Routes to School: Large-scale funding for public agencies.
Determine the scope of your program: Will your school host a one-time event on Bike to School Day, or a series of activities throughout the month?
Know when, where and for how long your event(s) will occur. Print out a map of your school’s location and plan where your activities will take place. Keep in mind safety and increased bike/pedestrian traffic. Also, account for possible changes in weather.
Bike parking: Where can students park their bikes and lock them up? Is additional signage or communication required to let students know where and where not to park? Having parents directing bike traffic on the school grounds is helpful. Have kids walk their bikes on school grounds.
Understand local laws and school policies: Work closely with the school or district’s administrative staff to identify any particular risk management issues. If your area has a helmet law, make sure that parents are aware of it. Make sure that you are following any applicable school policies such as parental permission slips, waivers, etc. School administrators and PTAs always want to know about events that are being organized for their school. Be proactive in having these conversations!
Involve and inform parents and caregivers who are ultimately responsible for deciding how kids get to school. They should determine the child’s readiness and best route for biking and walking to school. Let parents know of the locations of signalized or marked crossing and locations with crossing guards.
Spread the word
There are lots of ways to spread the news about Bike to School month at your school! Everyone, from parents to the principal, can be involved. Below are some ideas to get you started:
Display colorful signs around your school promoting your Bike to School activities.
Send an announcement about Bike to School Month to your PTA or school newsletter or website, local blog, newspaper, e-newsletters, email blast to parents at school. Write print-ready content as it is more likely to be published.
Invite a local sports figure, public representative, or community leader to your school to talk about the importance of healthy habits and an active lifestyle.
Ask the principal or a student leader to announce Bike to School activities over the intercom.
Involve the student council or another student club in organizing and advertising Bike to School month.
Set up a table during the lunch breaks to educate students on the program and invite them to register.
Bike to School timeline
September: Present your ideas to the school PTA and find your allies. Ask the principal if they can be involved in Bike to School month in any way. Select a date for a Bike to School assembly if your school plans these at the beginning of the year.
October: Determine the scope of your Bike to School program, coordinate logistics, and find out what additional resources you may need. Search for grants and potential donors. Many businesses prefer to be contacted for donation requests several months in advance.
November: Keep in touch with volunteers. Consider hosting a fundraiser for Bike to School Month if you are still in need of more financial resources.
February: Remind parents and kids that Bike to School Month is coming up in May. Send out a second call for volunteers if needed.
March: Finalize Logistics and send a reminder email to volunteers with event details and tasks. Start thinking about next year…request a budget line from your PTA.
April: Spread the word about your event to local news outlets including your parent newsletter, local blog, and school calendar. Get kids registered! Register your school’s program at walkbiketoschool.org as it is an important national tracker for the national bike to school movement.
May: Bike to School Month!
Year-Round Active Transportation: The Next Step
Don’t stop with just a Bike to School Program in May--continue your efforts throughout the year with bike trains and other encouragement events. Pour some hot cider in November and remind families that walking and biking to school can happen year-round.
Suggestions for delivering the program
Bike to School Activities: Whether you are creating a one time event for Bike to School month or a series of events, there are several great activities to engage students and their families in May. Below are some ideas to get you started. Exercise your creativity!
1. Involve the students! Provide a drop-box for event ideas, hold a meeting with student leaders, decorate signs in class for Bike to School month.
2. Set up a Morning Welcome station and offer stickers, hand stamps, or healthy snacks to students who arrive by bike in the mornings (i.e. carrot sticks, grapes, granola bars, apple slices, oranges, bananas) keep it quick and easy. Avoid plastic and other non-environmentally friendly materials.
3. Gather volunteers and/or the school mascot to greet and cheer students on as they arrive to school.
4. Provide an online link for parents with suggested walking or biking routes. Encourage students to plan a bike route to school with their families. (if students are unable to bike to school, encourage them to bike on the weekends).
5. Hire Cascade to host a 30 minute interactive bicycle safety assembly for elementary students.
6. Develop a bicycle train (see info on bike trains below)
7.Host an after-school helmet fitting clinic for parents and students one week before the event.
8. Host a bike decorating station with streamers, pipe cleaners, stickers and other supplies.
9. Make it fun! Host friendly competitions between classes- Celebrate the class with the most riders at an all school assembly
10. Track total miles or bike trips made as a school.
11. Organize bike trains to your BTS events.
12. Involve teachers! Help them organize an all-teacher bike train that kids and parents can join on Bike to School Day or end-of-the-month celebration.
13. Involve student council! They have great ideas on what they want at their school.
*Walkbiketoschool.org has great resources including tips and templates for tracking miles and starting a bicycle train in your community.
Example of BTS month programming
April 28: Kick off assembly. Introduce students to program and encourage sign-ups.
May 1: Continue to recruit students attending the school's Science Fair (tie in to existing school events)
May 7: Bike to School Day!!! Music, balloons, live raffle (with donated prizes), healthy snacks, stickers from Cascade, bike trains with colorful signs along the way
May 16: Morning Welcome table with healthy snacks, stickers, live raffle (with donated prizes), helmet sales/fitting, bike trains
May 17: Organized bike ride in Ballard's Syttende Mai parade
May 20: Morning Welcome table with healthy snacks, stickers, live raffle (with donated prizes), helmet sales/fitting, bike trains
May 29: Morning Welcome table with healthy snacks, stickers, live raffle (with donated prizes), helmet sales/fitting, bike trains to school. Bike train after school to Cascade's Ballard Street Party.
If you have further questions about Bike to School Month or if you would like to share photos from your event, feel free to contact Program Coordinator Khatsini Simani at firstname.lastname@example.org.