It’s a recent Tuesday afternoon and Waffiyyah Murray is sitting in a small administrative office in Lea High School in West Philadelphia. The Safe Routes Philly coordinator at the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia, she’s discussing plans for this year’s Bike to School Day with Maurice Jones, president of the Lea Home and School Association at the K-8 school at 48th and Locust Streets.
“Bike to School Day gives kids who would not normally bike to school a chance to do so,” says Murray. “It also promotes safe biking habits and highlights the health benefits of biking. Most importantly, it shows kids how much fun biking to school can be, and allows them to explore their community in a fun new way.”
Safe Routes Philly, a project of the Bicycle Coalition and sponsored by the Philadelphia Health Department, seeks to encourage walking and biking as a safe, fun form of transportation for students in Philadelphia. Since 2010, Safe Routes Philly has trained over 200 teachers and the safety lessons have been taught in 133 schools reaching over 60,000 students.
Bike to School Day is a national event conducted in hundreds of cities all over the country. The national event is “part of the movement for year-round safe routes to school and encourages bicycling to school as a healthy way for kids and families to make their school commute,” according to Bike To School’s official site, SafeRoutesInfo.org.
If all goes according to plan, Bike to School Day will take place in Philadelphia and as many as 2,220 other locations around the country.
The lead-up to the event here will include several weeks of walking and biking events, including a waking school bus and bike train day—where a “train” of kids, parents and volunteers will bike to school, together, on the road.
It’s been several months in the making for Murray and Jones, both of whom are avid bicyclists in the city. Because as much as SafeRoutesInfo lays out how the event can be organized, it takes local organizations, schools and partnerships in communities to make it happen.
During the walking events later this spring, parents and one teacher will act as walking school bus leaders, meeting students at various locations in the school community and walking safely and happily to school as a group.
This will all lead to May 6, this year’s Bike to School Day the country over. That morning, students, parents and staff will meet at the Barkan Park on 50th and Spruce, then ride to the school.
Once there, there will be a Safe Routes Philly info table set up in the schoolyard with bike safety info for students and parents as they arrive to school. Safe Routes Philly will be raffling off helmets and U-Locks to students that participate.
That’s not all. Volunteers from KIND will also be participating in the ride and giving away free KIND Bars to Bike to School Day participants.
“The goal is to host monthly walking and biking encouragement activities at Lea that involve not only students,” says Murray, “but the community as a whole.”
Topics: Safe Routes Philly