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Video: Students Ride for National Bike to School Day

Vienna elementary schools among those participating in inaugural event nationwide

Blue bikes, pink bikes, tricycles and trailers far outnumbered the cars along the rolling hills in neighborhoods near Wolftrap Elementary School on Wednesday morning.

The 80 students and their families who showed up to ride in the school's largest bike train to date were some of the thousands across the country expected to participate in the inaugural National Bike to School Day, a celebration that aims to create more excitement about using two wheels to get to school.

The national event is organized by the National Center for Safe Routes to School, which sponsors International Walk to School Day each October, and the League of American Bicyclists, which plans programming in May for Biking Month, including on May 18.

More than 700 events were planned in 49 states and Washington D.C. on Wednesday. Virginia was among the states with the most participation with 26 schools or groups planning events across the state.

Six of those schools were in Vienna.

At more than 50 students parked their bikes outside the school. At , which holds weekly for its students, more than 30 children rode two-wheelers to class and another five rode scooters, said Safe Routes to School coordinator Sean McCall -- nearly 8 percent of the student population.

and and s also planned activities for the day.

The amount of participation in town has grown significantly in the past three years. When Wolftrap parent Jeff Anderson started named for the school's mascott, in 2009, the school had no bike racks.

Children in Fairfax County Public Schools weren't allowed to bike to or from class, Principal Anita Blain said, unless administrators made a site-specific decision.

Blain did, and Wolftrap Elementary forged ahead with the bike train, running one monthly at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year.

What was once an event that attracted a few handfuls of kids -- and as few as four in freezing weather -- is now a tradition that's become part of many families routines, Anderson said. The school has four permanent bike racks, and could probably fill more on days like Wednesday, he said.

This year, the school board voted to amend its policy to include biking and walking as a means of school transportation.

That kind of momentum prompted Anderson to team up with McCall and others for the , held each year in the week leading up to Schools count the number of walkers, bike riders and scooter-ists every day for a week. There three categories; winners receive trophies.

Wolftrap, Vienna and Schools have done the challenge since 2009; this year, Louise Archer and Marshall Road Elementary School will join as well. It runs May 14 to 18. Check Vienna Patch next week for daily tallies and the winners.

For a video from this morning's event at Wolftrap Elementary, and photos from other schools, click through the media player above.

Amelie Krikorian May 10, 2012 at 11:04 AM
Nice idea. Too bad those kids are being taught that it's OK to ride your bike tandem across the whole road. Biking is a great idea but could we please teach safety along with it? Wearing a helmet is not enough if you are biking in the middle of the street and get hit from behind in a curve in the road.
Brian Dauernheim May 10, 2012 at 12:40 PM
At the beginning of every Marshall Road bike train, we emphasize that safety is paramount. Every student who rides must wear a helmet. We also emphasize riding in straight lines, rather than weaving around. Of course, they are kids, so they are still erratic at times, which is why we had multiple adults throughout the group making sure to correct behavior as needed. Yesterday was an unusually large turnout which tends to make it difficult to keep everyone contained. But I rode on the back of the train with my mirror pointed so I could see cars approaching from behind and warn the train about them, and I thought the students did a fine job of staying to the right for passing cars. All the roads we traveled on were 25mph speed limit roads. At that speed, cars should be able to stop in 90 feet. (They don't even have to stop, they just have to be able to slow down enough to match our speed, so the distance is actually less.) The safest place to be is where we are visible to approaching cars. This was only our second time doing the bike train, and we already had students who did it both times. As more of them get more experience riding in the group, I believe we'll continue to get all of them to ride better and safer and drivers will start getting accustomed to seeing us on the road as well.
Ramsemom May 10, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Seriously, that's all you could take away from this event? Just like someone not involved to criticize those doing good for others. I'm sure all the adult volunteers riding (for the sake of a lot of other people's children) had safety as their number 1 priority. There was no harm done in letting them ride that way due to the volume of riders for this special event and all the volunteers with them. Shame on you.
J Anderson May 10, 2012 at 02:29 PM
I've been running this ride 1x a month for over 2 years. These kids are drilled safety every time w/ regulars probably tired of hearing it but they still get the message. The number of times the adults say "stay right" on the 20min ride has is extremely high. In a case like this where there is a large group, it's actually much safer to ride as the video shows. Sidewalks are extremely dangerous for a group of small kids as cars exiting driveways are not looking for anyone on sidewalks, they are in a rush to get onto the street. What you see is not indicative of the ride as a whole, but given that one stretch of road in the video, it is much safer. These kids when they leave school & go home individually, are riding on the sidewalks, stopping at cross streets & doing what we've taught them. If you want to know where the real danger lives, it's the neighbors who are in a rush to get to work & aren't paying attention or the FCPS teacher who 2 years running has yelled at us for making her late & cuts around the kids. Helmets to kids are like seatbelts, they put them on w/o anyone having to tell them. A helmet may not save a life in an accident w/ a car, only a fall. Drilling safety into them as well as drivers is what will save those lives. And if FCPS would reinstitute the Bike/Ped education, they'd learn that way too. We have a decade worth of kids who have not received this education, I urge you to contact a School Board member to ask why it's not being taught.
Wien May 10, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Possible that it was a promo shot for the benefit of the video. Based on the video, it looks like there's an (escort) van behind them with flashers on, and there are crossing guards manning each stop sign. Getting kids to stay in a straight line with a video camera present? Good luck.
Amelie Krikorian May 10, 2012 at 10:02 PM
The point of my comment -- as many of you do not seem to have understood -- is that if you teach a kid to ride in a big group, then that is what they are going to do. It won't matter to them that there is no adult with them and no safety van behind them. You say that safety was emphasized and that's great, in theory. But kids are way more apt to mimic what they see and continue to do as they were allowed to do then to stop and think "wait, we can't ride three across right here." Like I said, I like the idea of biking to school. It's good exercise and kids are too prone to choose to ride the bus so they can play their GameBoys. But if you tell the kids in a lecture that they should ride single file and then in practice you are allowing them to ride three or four across, they will find it a hard habit to break, and that worries me.
J Anderson May 10, 2012 at 11:33 PM
I invite you to ride with us and see what is theory vs what is reality. The Bike Train is run 1x a month with far fewer kids and we ride safely and with cars easily. It being National Bike to School day yesterday - this was a different experience for them all and as such we ran a rolling enclosure - parents on the front w/ the rule not to pass them, parents in the middle and parents in the back w/ a chase car w/ flasher. If we didn't do as such and take the road when we needed to, some neighbor in a rush to get to get to 123 and sit in traffic would have cut into the middle of the group and spook the kids. In fact we've even had an FCPS teacher do this two years in a row on her way to her school (not Wolftrap). We run a tight ship and the kids know it - and when they bike home individually, they 'on their own' ride on the sidewalk and interestingly enough co-exist w/ the kids walking quite well. They are well aware of the uniqueness of the bike train and know it's different than an average ride to school with the goal to show them riding to school is safe and when they no longer ride with us and do it on their own..that is an awesome thing. I'm done justifying what is viewed by the greater population as something so badly needed and the smiles on the kids faces is all that is needed to show it's more than that too.
Amelie Krikorian May 11, 2012 at 11:11 AM
That sounds great and you seem to be on top of the situation there. Since my kids don't go to Wolftrap I don't know what rules you have in place and I was worried for the kids. Around where I live off Lawyers' Road, I see some kids obeying the rules of the road and others engaging in races through the series of speed triangles on Abbotsford, or flying down the middle of Center Street with their hands off the handlebars and raised up above their heads. You still seem to think I am criticizing biking to school and I am not. I just want to point out that what kids do when an adult is around and what they do when they are not can be two totally different things. I would bet that none of the parents whose kids are dodging traffic triangles during rush hour on Abbotsford are aware that their kids are doing that. A long, long time ago I used to bike to school myself and I remember being laughed at for wearing a helmet and following the rules we were taught. That may not be such an issue in elementary but it is in middle school.... perhaps a refresher course on bike safety could be offered at Thoreau and Kilmer.
J J Madden May 11, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Kids at Wolftrap Elementary, Kilmer and others are lucky they can bike and walk to school because they have sidewalks and paths. Many schools don't have good neighborhood connections in part because FCPS doesn't make it a priority. On May 22 there is a great opportunity to tell the school system you want required sidewalk connectivity to every school. Got to the public meeting on a new FCPS facilities strategic plan. Info is here: http://www.fcps.edu/fts/planning/fpac/index.shtml You can also send an email.
J J Madden May 11, 2012 at 01:50 PM
BTW - Wolftrap Elementary went the extra mile for safety by holding a pedestrian and bicycle rules-of-the-road training event for kids at the school last Sunday morning. See the story here: http://lastgenerationbc.com/2012/05/bike-rodeo-rustles-up-kid-safety/
J Anderson May 11, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Ok...this is my last comment. Kids are kids and riding as you describe is what kids do.....no hands, feet off the pedals, riding off curbs, popping wheelies, etc etc. I did it, my parents did it and my kids will likely do it and so on. That can't be patrolled nor should it. What's next - climbing trees? I understand safety as much as anyone - and tragedies happen as the one in Vienna last year - but at what cost do we squash kids being kids. I think we are getting into area that is not worth commenting on much anymore......because it's emotional. Life is good!
Craig K. Hassler May 14, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Thanks for all your work in making this happen. Crazy how times have changed. When I was a 5th grader in 1975 at Lewis Carrol Elementary School in Merritt Island, FL there was a large grassy area where all the kids who bicycled to school parked parked our bikes. Now, driving by any school in Carteret County, NC there are traffic jams of autos driven by parents and students. No wonder NC is considering offshore drilling. Too bad we can't use more paths that aren't impervious cement or asphalt...may even be less expensive to use other renewable materials like wood chips...we certainly have lots of those piling up at the State Port in Morehead City thanks to Weyerhauser Corporation and their $1,000 and $2,000 donations to Pat McElraft and Jean Preston our NC state house and senate representatives.
Amelie Krikorian May 14, 2012 at 10:27 AM
Louise Archer is having a bike to school event this week. Safety talks? Zero. Parents involved in guiding groups? None that I am aware of. Police involvement to get the kids across Lawyers or down the feeder streets like Lewis that are almost too narrow for two cars to pass and have no sidewalks? None that I have heard of. Even in a small town like this, the approaches to an event like this can vary enormously. I have a friend whose son will be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life thanks to a biking accident, so this makes me extra concerned about safety for kids while biking. And while it's true in many areas we have gone off the deep end with regards to protecting our kids -- getting rid of see saws, merry go rounds, and metal slides in playgrounds, for example -- I don't think that providing bicycle safety training (not at Wolftrap, where you seem to have it covered) is going overboard.
Amelie Krikorian May 14, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Louise Archer has now contacted the FCPD regarding the safety issue and they have said their patrols on Lawyers and Abbotsford will increase.

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