Bike Month & Beyond: Resources for active transportation champions

Bike Month and Beyond: Resources for active transportation champions

What is Bike to School Month?   

May is National Bike Month, a time for people of all ages across the country to celebrate bicycling and ride! In addition to being enjoyable, bicycling can lead to lifelong health and better learning. We encourage all students to begin their school day with a safe and active commute.

Cascade Bicycle Club hosts friendly Bike to School competitions for elementary, middle and high school students who can track commute minutes or miles and earn prizes for their efforts.

In 2015, more than 3200 elementary, middle and high school students from 65 schools in 6 area school districts participated in Bike to School Month! They logged more than 628,000 minutes on their bikes! Let’s keep the momentum going!

Why is this important?

Biking helps us reduce our carbon footprint, engage with our neighbors, feel energized and gain other health benefits. We want to foster a lifelong healthy habits and “normalize” cycling early in the life stage. Starting the school day with a bike ride will ensure that kids are awake and ready to learn!

How does it work?

Elementary school students sign up at their participating school for the Bike to School Month challenge.  Rather than competing against each other, students earn prizes by completing as many minutes as they can during the month and track them on a calendar. Because every child cannot cycle safely to school, round trips to sports practice, music lessons, trips to the library, riding with family on the weekends, etc., can be counted.  

In general, young children are not prepared to ride on the street alone. Most elementary school children ride with their parents or another adult. We envision participation in Bike-to-School Month as a family project, one that may also introduce parents to the fun of cycling with their kids.

Community/school/parent leaders register your school with Cascade Bicycle Club’s Bike to School program by contacting our Youth Programs Assistant (ypa@cascade.org). You would then publicize the monthlong challenge at the school, handle student registration, communicate with parents, report total minutes at the end of the month and distribute prizes provided by Cascade. We encourage you to celebrate Bike to School Day (May 4, 2016) at your school by creating a special event, welcoming riders with healthy snacks, stickers, and lots of hoopla!

On our website, you can download:

  • Sample text for school newsletter
  • Sample registration forms
  • Tracking calendar

Middle and high school students register on Cascade’s Bike to School Challenge website and can compete with other students via the website, recording their commute trips.  Middle school students (younger than 13) need to register with a parent or guardian’s email address.  Students who choose to compete will create a user name (not their full name) which will appear on the website to protect their privacy.  

Participating students can complete for top prizes and will be entered into weekly drawings for cool prizes.

What other resources are available to support my efforts?

Bike to School kits will be available in early April (we will email you when they are ready) and usually include:

  • Bike to School Month banner
  • Bike to School Month posters
  • stickers
  • a small prize to distribute on Bike to School Day (Wednesday, May 4)
  • Clif Kid bars or other healthy snack
  • Helmet fit brochures, summer camp info, etc.

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 and documents 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!

1. Find your allies

Present your idea: Bring your Bike to School proposal to the PTA/MIT, 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. This many be the P.E. teacher, the principal, or a teacher who bikes.

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!

2. Funding the fun

Funding sources:

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.

Consider asking local businesses for donations of healthy snacks, prizes, etc. Ask several weeks or even months ahead of your event(s). Each business has their own timeline for processing donation requests.

Some local resources:

SDOT (Seattle Department of Transportation) has mini-grants of up to $1,000 available for schools, community groups, and non-profit school-related groups for those wanting to promote and make walking and biking safer in your school community. Click here  http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/ped_srts_grant.htm) for more information on mini-grants, examples of past applications and summary reports and grant cycle periods. Must be within Seattle Public Schools to be eligible.

SDOT also has small prizes (stickers, temporary tattoos, wrist bands, etc) for Seattle schools to use as incentives.  http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/saferoutes_incentives.htm   This encouragement program is part of the city’s 5 year Safe Routes to School Action Plan.

Department of Neighborhoods (DON)-Neighborhood Park and Street Fund- DON provides grants of various sizes, up to $90,000, for neighborhood specific projects, can include efforts to encourage walking or biking.  Emphasis on project is community driven and involves volunteer support.  http://www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/neighborhood-park-and-street-fund

Department of Neighborhoods (DON) Neighborhood Matching Fund-  This program provides matching dollars for neighborhood improvement, organizing, or projects that are developed and implemented by community members.   http://www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/neighborhood-matching-fund

  • Small Sparks Fund — up to $1,000
  • Small and Simple Projects Fund — up to $25,000
  • Large Project Fund — up to $100,000

OSPI Bike and pedestrian Safety Education Program – Provides training, equipment and bicycles for school district to teach walking and biking safety within middle school PE classes. Up to $25,000 in material and training.  http://www.k12.wa.us/healthfitness/SafeRoutes.aspx

Safe Routes to School:  Large-scale funding for public agencies http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/LocalPrograms/SafeRoutes/CallForProjects.htm

3. Site logistics:

Determine the scope of your program: Will your school host a one-time event on Bike to School Day, or a series of activities or morning welcome tables 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, accessibility and proximity to restrooms (if the event is longer).

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.

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- the earlier they know, the better! Have kids walk their bikes on school grounds and remind them about pedestrian rights when riding on the sidewalk.

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 crossings and locations with crossing guards.

4. Spread the word

There are lots of ways to spread the news about Bike to School month at your school! Everyone from parents to principals can be involved. Below are some ideas to get you started:

  • Display colorful signs around your school promoting your Bike to School activities and/or the posters provide by Cascade.
  • Send an announcement about Bike to School Month to your PTA/MIT, school newsletter, website, local blog, newspaper, e-newsletters or 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 at an all-school assembly.
  • Ask the principal or a student leader to announce Bike to School activities over the intercom.
  • Involve the student council, environmental club 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.
  • Present the idea at your school’s Curriculum Night (usually early in the school year)

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, below are some ideas for engaging students and their families in May:

  1. Involve the students! Provide a dropbox 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.
  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
  7. Host an after-school helmet fitting clinic for parents and students one week before the event. Cascade can provide you with low-cost helmets for resale.
  8. Host a bike decorating station with streamers, pipe cleaners, stickers and other supplies.
  9. Make it fun! Host friendly competitions between classes and celebrate the class with the most riders at an all school assembly.
  10. Track total minutes biked as a school. (You can use these stats later for a summary report if needed.)
  11. 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.

Example of Bike to School Month programming

April 28:  Kick off assembly.  Introduce students to program and encourage sign-ups.

April 30:  Community Bike Rodeo (skills stations, helmet giveaways, bike repair and tune-ups)

May 1: Continue to recruit students attending the school's Science Fair (tie in to existing school events)

May 4: 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 10:  Morning Welcome table with healthy snacks, stickers, live raffle (with donated prizes), helmet sales/fitting, bike trains to school

May 20: Morning Welcome table with healthy snacks, stickers, live raffle (with donated prizes), helmet sales/fitting, bike trains to school

May 29: Morning Welcome table with healthy snacks, stickers, live raffle (with donated prizes), helmet sales/fitting, bike trains to school

Bike to School timeline

September: Present your ideas to the school PTA/MIT and find your allies. Ask the principal if s/he 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 weeks or 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 and 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. Host a bike rodeo (bike skills/obstacle course) on your school playground.

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.

What makes a program successful and sustainable?

There are several key factors that contribute to high participation rates in school communities. They include:

  1. Staff/teachers modeling desired behavior
  2. High program visibility
  3. Creative motivation strategies (class to class challenge, for example)
  4. School-wide support of P.E. activities
  5. Leveraging synergy with existing P.E. activities

Cascade Bike to School contacts

Emily Kotz, Youth Programs Assistant, ypa@cascade.org
Clarissa Allen, School-based Programs Manager, clarissaa@cascade.org
Shannon Koller, Senior Director of Education, shannonk@cascade.org

What are bike trains?

Bike trains are based on the same principles as walking school busses — parents who accompany groups of children on bike rides to school. Bike trains and are fun and active way to commute for families. They take careful planning and preparation in order to ensure safety for all.

There are several online guides and resources to help you organize your community bike train. We’ve narrowed the check list to include the key components of a bike train and to help prepare you to do so safely.

It is strongly recommended that bike train participants practice bike handling and traffic safety skills before riding in a bike train, since you will be riding on the road. Helmets must be worn at all times while riding, both for protection and under King County law.

Bike train checklist

Gather support

  • Identify parent volunteers or teachers who are interested in leading or supporting a bike train and are confident in their urban riding skills. (Hint: hang out at bike racks!)
  • Create a contact list with phone numbers and/or emails of interested people. Keep this
    list on file for future communication.

Survey your community/Plan your route

Work with your school to identify side streets, local greenways or trails to utilize as bike train routes. Plan multiple points along the way to pick up more passengers. Strategize how you will manage challenging intersections (e.g. when using crosswalks, having one leader watching for cars in the crosswalk/unmarked intersection and another waiting at the other end of the crosswalk to receive the bike train).

Train components

  • Front and rear adult riders to make sure children are all ‘aboard’ together
  • Appropriate spacing (one to two bike-distance between each passenger)
  • Train rules (using traffic signals, no swerving, basic knowledge of bicycle safety, etc.)

Spread the word

Post a blurb in your school newsletter, local blog, community or library bulletin (include a brief description of what a bike train is along with your contact info).

Create a bike buzz!

Local businesses may be interested in sponsoring a Bike to School Day event. Reach out to owners and seek out mini-grants to support your efforts to be active!

Bike train tips and recommendations

  • One adult rider for every two or three children (may need to set a minimum age requirement)
  • Plan a route that’s under 30 minutes. The train will typically move slower than you think, so plan ahead!
  • Hold a bicycle skills course for children, parents and volunteers before the bike train. This is a great outreach opportunity as well as a chance to learn and practice basic bike handling skills and see what skills need to be reinforced. Encourage parents to have their kids practice on the skills course before riding in the bike train.
  • Have a first aid kit, emergency phone and phone list on hand.
  • Check your local city and county helmet laws. Cascade encourages all riders to wear a helmet while on their bikes.

Additional Resources

Safe Routes Partnership:

http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/resourcecenter/SRAM-Bicycling-Webinars/bike-trains

Safe Routes to School:

http://guide.saferoutesinfo.org/walking_school_bus/bicycle_trains.cfm

Bike Month:

http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/keep-going/ongoing-activities/bike-trains

Walk Bike to School has other great resources.

Bike train riding safety tips

(share this with parents too)

  1. ALWAYS wear your helmet. Make sure that it is fit properly. Remember eyes, ears, mouth.
  2. Lights at times of darkness! Flashing white light in the front, flashing red in the back.
  3. Make sure that shoelaces/pant legs are tucked in so they don’t get caught in the chain.
  4. Bring a lock so that you can secure your bike to the bike rack.
  5. ABC Quick check each day: Air, brakes, chain, quick releases.
  6. Use your hand signals to communicate with others on the road (left, right, stopping, slowing)
  7. Ride in a STRAIGHT, PREDICTABLE line!  
  8. Take (control) the lane if the road is too narrow to share with a car.
  9. You are allowed to ride on the sidewalk in some cities (check local laws), but remember that pedestrians have the right of way. Stop before alleys and driveways and look for vehicles as they may not be expecting you.
  10. At unmarked 4-way intersections or roundabouts, the person on your right has the right of way and you should yield.  
  11. If it is your right of way, make eye contact with the driver to make sure that they see you.
  12. You may want to hop off your bike and walk it across busy intersections. Make sure that drivers in both directions see you and that you have plenty of time to cross safely.
  13. If a driver offers for you to cross in front of them and is waving you on, you can politely refuse their offer and stay where you are until all traffic has cleared. If you decide to to enter the lane, you MUST make sure that it is clear in all directions.  
  14. When riding in a group, leave 1-2 bike lengths between you and the bike in front of you.
  15. Use your SASS when moving into traffic! Scan, Assess, Signal and Scan again