Thursday, May 10, 2012

Philadelphia's First-Ever Bike to School Day

Last month Safe Routes Philly assisted Penrose Elementary in Southwest Philadelphia with holding the first-ever Bike to School Day at a Philadelphia public school. The event was an extraordinary success.

Students arriving at school on two wheels
The day came about through the efforts of Penrose nurse and wellness champion Bob Carozza, plus two Americorps volunteers. Mr. Carozza learned about the Bike to School Day concept through Safe Routes Philly community representative Steve Taylor. Steve recommended the day as a way to introduce students and parents to the value and fun of bicycling and active transportation.

Mr. Carozza passed out fliers to Penrose teachers to send home with students advertising the April 18th event. Steve and Mr. Carozza were expecting a handful of students - instead, over 30 students came riding onto school grounds that Wednesday morning, many accompanied by parents on bikes or on foot. Once at school, the participating students were served healthy snacks while the bikes were locked up to the school's six bike racks.

Mr. Carozza is a nationally-recognized wellness champion, recently being named the 2012 Communities Putting Prevention to Work Champion for Philadelphia by the CDC. Despite having such a person on staff (for the past 22 years), this Bike to School Day is a big step forward for Penrose, which typically has zero students bicycling to school. The school has had inverted U-racks installed out front for years but staff and students didn't even realize they were bike racks before Steve Taylor mentioned them.

An overflow of bicycles at Penrose's typically empty racks
The student, teacher, and parent reaction to the Bike to School Day was extremely positive. Students enjoyed the novelty and excitement of riding bikes to school. Parents appreciated it too, with one mother commenting to Steve that she was considering buying a bike herself so she could accompany her child to school on two wheels.

Mr. Carozza and Penrose plan to hold another Bike to School Day on May 22nd and at least one a year going forward. In addition, the event is helping to generate a school culture of active transportation and wellness, with students learning first-hand or from their friends that bicycling is a viable and fun choice for getting to school. Just earlier this week, Mr. Carozza spotted a couple of bicycles locked to the racks out front.


Anonymous said...

Heartwarming! It's what the children and their parents want. This could be our future.

Paul said...

This is great. I believe the Bike Coalition should help promote cycling in the local schools as much as possible.