Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back to School Time is Bike to School Time

For some children, heading back to school isn't a joyful occasion, what with the end of summer and the onset of homework. But the way they get to school can inject some joy -- bicycling there can add fun, independence and freedom.

Just ask their parents, many of whom have fond memories of riding a bike to school as a kid. Back in 1969, over half of all students biked to school. Today only about 15 percent of students bike or walk to school, according to the Safe Routes to School Partnership.

Other risk factors are also worrisome: As much as 30% of morning traffic is generated by parents driving their children to school, one-third of schools are in "air pollution danger zones" and more than 33% of U.S. children are now overweight and obese or at risk of becoming so.

At Century Cycles bicycle stores, which sponsors and helps organize area bike to school programs, the bicycling experts have these tips to make back to school time bike to school time:

Stock up on safety essentials

The #1 item is a properly-fitting helmet, which has been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent. Century Cycles has a wide assortment of styles and can help with size and straps for the best fit. Also consider a bike lock, a bell (to alert pedestrians a bike is coming their way) and lights or reflective clothing (to improve visibility).

Plan the route to school

The safest place for bicycle riding for older students is on the street, where bicycles must follow the same rules of the road as cars. Review those rules with your children - go with the flow of traffic, obey the traffic laws, be predictable and stay alert. Children less than 10 years old are better off riding on the sidewalk, if your jurisdiction allows it. They should be warned to watch for vehicles in driveways, avoid pedestrians on sidewalks and be especially careful at intersections.

Ride with your kids

If you love bicycling, chances are your kids will, too. Just be sure to model the behavior you're teaching - wear your helmet, obey traffic laws and be respectful to other cyclists and motorists. Along the way, you may also find more joy and feel more fit.

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