by Tracey Bradnan
Northeast Ohio children have joined Greater Cleveland’s bicycling boom in a big way, racking up thousands of miles bicycling to school for a local bike-to-school program that is one of the largest and most successful in the nation.
Over 4,000 students at middle schools in Rocky River, Bay Village and Medina were encouraged to take the 2012 Bike To School Challenge on May 7-25, an award-winning program organized and sponsored by local bicycle store Century Cycles. Using daily bike counts and student surveys to gauge participation, Bike To School Challenge reports that in three weeks of bicycling to school, the students took 15,868 roundtrip bicycle rides to school and logged an impressive 52,084 miles.
“Bike To School Challenge is unique and is the best of its kind in the nation,” said Chris Speyer, Executive Vice President of Raleigh Bicycles and president of the Bicycle Products Suppliers Association, who travelled to Northeast Ohio from the company’s headquarters near Seattle, Washington, to attend the challenge’s closing ceremonies at each school. “We work with over 1,400 bike stores around the country. I have never seen a bike-to-school program that generates the level of participation and excitement that this one does.”
Founded in 2008, Bike To School Challenge communicates to students the impact that bicycling instead of driving can have on their health and the environment, and they are incentivized with daily and grand prizes to bicycle as much as possible to school for three weeks. Students carry cards that are stamped for each bike-ride to school and can be entered into the grand prize drawing that concludes the challenge.
“We organize it for three weeks because we want to establish bicycling as a habit,” said Scott Cowan, owner of Century Cycles bicycle stores in Rocky River, Medina and Peninsula, Ohio. “We are gratified to see far more bicycling all yearround in the communities because of Bike To School Challenge.”
Bicycling to school can save families money, help fight childhood obesity and lessen rush-hour traffic woes. This year, Bike To School Challenge students saved Mom and Dad $8,718.75 on 2,325 gallons of gasoline (based on the Ohio average vehicle fuel economy of 22.4 MPG and average gas price of $3.75/gallon on May 25). They also burned an estimated 885,428 calories (calculating that a 100-pound person burns about 17 calories per mile during moderate bicycling) and saved an estimated 57,292 pounds of heattrapping carbon dioxide from being emitted into the environment.
“Your choice to ride your bike to school has made a significant difference in your health, the health of the environment, and the health of our city,” said Rocky River Mayor Pam Bobst in her address to Rocky River Middle School students. “For that, we thank you, we admire you, and you are inspiring our entire community.”
At Bay Middle School, an average of 474 students biked each day for the challenge’s three weeks, a whopping 59% of the school’s enrollment of 793 students. Rocky River Middle School averaged 273 bicyclists to school per day (44% of the school); Bay High School averaged 135 bicyclists per day (16%); Root Middle School in Medina averaged 128 bicyclists per day (15%); and Claggett Middle School averaged 65 bicyclists per day (7%). Both Medina middle schools had bike-ridership of less than 2% prior to the start of the program.