Summer is almost over, but that’s not a reason to stash away the bikes. Getting to school by bike has proven to increase students’ ability to focus and learn. It is also a wonderful opportunity for a family to spend time and get exercise together. And it’s fun. With some preparation and skill most schools can be reached safely on a bike. We have talked with three North Shore students who regularly ride to school. Elias Nebel is a Grade 2 student at Cleveland Elementary in North Vancouver, Lauren Schmoll is in Grade 2 at Canyon Heights Elementary School in North Vancouver, and Michael Yao is a Grade 7 student at West Bay Elementary in West Vancouver.
What is your favourite part about riding to school?
Elias: My favourite part about riding to school is I get lots of exercise.
Lauren: Riding through puddles is my favourite.
Michael: The sidewalks / roads are perfect for cycling and so are the bikerests at school.
What is your least favourite part of your ride?
Elias: The least favourite part of my ride is that I fall over sometimes when I ride back home. It is up hill and sometimes I am tired after school. One day, I fell upside down into a hole between grass and a fence; it didn’t hurt, but it surprised me very much.
Lauren: Locking up my bike at school.
Michael: My least favourite part is that sometimes there are working trucks on Westmount Road that go by and the smell is very bad.
How do you carry stuff for school on your bike?
Elias: I carry stuff in my backpack.
Lauren: In my backpack.
Michael: Since I don’t have much stuff to bring to school, I just put them in my backpack. If I need to take lots of stuff to home (like the last day of school), my mom would just pick me up.
What is your strategy for going up hills?
Elias: I used to walk my bike up hill; usually I bike slow and steady, but sometimes if there is something exciting happening at home or something I want to do, I go full speed.
Lauren: Sometimes I ride, sometimes I walk, and sometimes my dad pushes me.
Michael: I mainly use two strategies. One of them is to switch to a lower gear and then ride at a steady beat (suggested standing up) about 8-10km/h. The other one is that if there is a really steep hill or I am tired, I just stop for a rest and walk my bike up the hill.
Who fixes your flats?
Elias: My dad or my mom fix my flats.
Lauren: My dad.
Michael: I only had a flat tire once and my mom and I fixed it.
Is there anything else you would like to share about biking to school?
Elias: I like riding downhill the most. On Halloween, there was a person dressed up in a cow costume getting into the car. It made me laugh. When it is garbage day, I like swerving around the garbage cans. Along the way, I like riding skinnies if I see some.
Lauren: It’s awesome!
Michael: The reason I bike to school a lot is because biking is one of my favourite sports. We always do a cycling trip around May from Park Royal across the Lions Gate into Stanley Park then back. Also, I ride with my friends a lot during summer vacation in Stanley Park. So I like bike riding after all.
While Lauren, Elias and Michael are already pros in riding to school, here are some safety tips for families interested in biking to school more often or for the first time. Route planning is essential. Ride on streets with low traffic volumes and speeds wherever possible. Younger children should not ride on busy roads without adult supervision. Children and youth are often better than adults at bike handling skills, but it takes time to develop traffic knowledge and behaviour. Students should consider taking a street riding course. HASTe, HUB and the North Shore Safety Council teach cycling safety and are the main resource for schools and families on the North Shore.
Always ride in the direction of traffic, ride in a straight line and behave like a car when on a bike – use hand signals and obey all traffic signs and lights. Be extra careful at intersections and driveways and try to make eye contact with drivers. Equip the bike with reflectors and use front and rear lights during dawn, dusk, when it rains and in the dark.
Drivers can do much to make cycling to school safe. Help students biking to school by reducing speed. Be ready to stop at all times. Leave at least one metre between your car and a cyclist when passing. When turning right, signal and check your mirrors and blind spot to make sure you do not cut off a cyclist. Always try to make eye contact with cyclists waiting to cross the road or an intersection. If you drive your children to school, consider dropping them off a few blocks away from school and let them walk the rest of the way. It is healthy exercise for your children and makes the school zone safer for everybody.
Riding skinnies? We had to check this and found out that it is a mountain bike skill where you ride a narrow line or structure. Talk about being focused and ready to learn when arriving at school.