Even steady rain didn't deter Vienna students from hitting the street with bikes, scooters and their own two feet Monday morning for the fourth annual Bike/Walk to School Challenge.
For the past three years, a few of Vienna's elementary schools have dedicated a week in May to a Bike/Walk to School Challenge, hoping to encourage more students to choose other ways to get school, and with luck, make it a habit.
For this year's challenge, held this week in conjunction with National Bike to Work Week, the number of schools participating has nearly doubled: Five schools — Wolftrap, Vienna, Cunningham Park, Louise Archer and Marshall Road Elementary Schools — are organizing walking and biking trains and inviting special guests to celebrate.
A sixth school, Westbriar Elementary, will be encouraging walking during the challenge week, but will not be participating in the event, said Sean McCall, the Safe Routes to Schools organizer for Vienna Elementary.
Parent volunteers count the number of walkers and bikers that arrive at each school every morning during the week. At the end of the week, schools can win one of three trophies based on their participation: The Vienna Walk/Bike Challenge Cup, awarded to the school with the largest percentage increase in participants over last year; the Biking Cup, for the school with the highest percentage of participants that bike to school. One school will also be recognized as the "Rookie of the Year," based on the number of participants relative to the size of their walking populations.
Jeff Anderson, the Safe Routes to School representative for Wolftrap Elementary School and the leader of Wolfie's Bike Train, helped start the challenge three years ago, in the 2008-09 school year.
Four schools -- Louise Archer, Wolftrap, Vienna and Marshall Road -- participated in the inaugural year of the challenge, and in five days, more than 2,800 kids biked or walked to school, Anderson said.
In 2010, 900 walkers and 174 bikers from Wolftrap joined the cause and kiss and ride usage dropped by 50 percent over the course of the week, Anderson said.
Last year, 2,546 students from three schools joined the cause. And this year, it's off to a roaring start: Despite the rain, 582 students walked, biked or scootered to school.
||Students by Bus|
|Louise Archer||180 (including one scooter)||1||181|
||84||162 (cars total)
||125||72 cars dropped off 92 students.|
At Vienna Elementary, more students walked or biked to school than on any single day during last year's challenge — last year, the school's highest daily total was 122, McCall said, and on a rainy day its count was 88.
While the numbers tracked this week are mostly for bragging rights, they will also be used for future years and could support any future Safe Routes To School applications. Last year, Cunningham Park successfully submitted a SRTS application to the Virginia Department of Transportation, earning funding for sidewalk projects that make it easier for students to walk or bike to school.
Some schools have recruited "special guests" for the challenge: On Tuesday, school board member Pat Hynes will walk with students to Wolftrap, and on Thursday, Kay Tsui, a 10-time National Champion in road, time trailing and criterium racing, will join the group.
Principals at several of the schools are expected to join students on various days this week as well.
Vienna Patch will continue to update results of the challenge throughout the week.