A slow, steady wave of children on black, blue, green, pink, teal and white bicycles made a cautious start Wednesday morning from the residential intersection at 8th Place S. and 15th Street SW in Edmonds.
The goal was safety, not speed, for the cluster of Sherwood Elementary School students who joined in the national Bike to School Day ride organized by the city, Edmonds Bicycle Advisory Group and the school.
With relatively short notice, at least 120 students and 40 parents pedaled from two meeting points north and south of the school.
“It’s about getting them healthy and out here,” said physical education teacher Pamela Thain, who helped organize the event.
A couple of weeks prior, Thain told students to join the ride if their guardians and parents agreed.
The school collected about 120 student sign-up forms, which were mostly requested so they had an idea of how many snacks to provide for their arrival to school Wednesday, principal Robyn Saltzman said.
About 440 students between first and sixth grade attend the school, and most live within 2 miles, Saltzman said.
The idea is similar to the “bike bus” organized in April 2022 for an elementary school in Portland, Oregon. A bike bus, however, “picks up” students on bikes, skates and scooters along the way, compared to the Edmonds ride that had defined start and end points for the groups.
Parents anxiously and eagerly looked on at the residential intersection near the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery. One mother said her son often bikes to school, but not from that location, because it requires crossing Highway 104.
A handful of city employees offered to lead the rides, with one at the head, one in the middle and one at the rear of the “bike bus.”
The 15th Street group rode on the streets all the way there. The road in front of the school was the only designated shared bike lane on that group’s route.
The group that crossed the highway benefited from their presence as they blocked traffic to ensure the whole cluster made it through, even if it took a little longer than the traffic signal allotted.
Both groups converged at the school at 22901 106th Ave. W in Edmonds. Cyclists between first and sixth grades turned into the parking lot, cheered on by staff and teachers, a speaker blaring upbeat music and someone wearing school mascot Blaze the eagle’s costume.
“It’s mind-boggling,” Edmonds transportation engineer Bertrand Hauss said after students turned into the parking lot.
The half-mile rides only took 10 to 15 minutes on a sunny, warm spring morning. The students got a similarly escorted ride back to their starting points after school.
Peter Hallson, a rider with the Edmonds Bicycle Advisory Group, said he has advocated for federal and state funding for the Safe Routes to School program. Cities and counties can apply for grants from it to improve mobility safety so people can reach schools by rolling and walking.
Bike education partnerships and programs in schools can help boost that activity as well, Hallson said.
But he said protected bike lanes are the best way to encourage people, especially children and parents, to ride. It’s a point echoed by many active transportation activists.
“It’s one thing to put the paint down, but that still allows the cars to be around,” Hallson said.
On most days, there are maybe a dozen bikes in the bike racks outside the school, Saltzman said.
If the organized bike ride becomes popular, like in Portland and elsewhere, the school could need a bike storage solution other than stashing them in the gym.
“We’ll get another rack,” Saltzman said.
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