Biking To School

Here are seven tips for making biking to school an activity you can participate in on National Bike & Roll to School Day and beyond.

Explore
By Courtney Johnson
Explore Ambassador

Every May the National Center for Safe Routes to School works in coordination with the League of American Bicyclists’ National Bike Month to host the National Bike & Roll to School Day. Biking to school provides many benefits, from burning calories and providing extra vitamin D to creating less pollution and energy expenditure. Here are seven tips for making biking to school an activity you can participate in on National Bike & Roll to School Day and beyond. 

1

Pick The Easy Route

When you first begin biking to school, choose the simplest and most direct route to get to school safely. Check out a local bicycle map to find the ins and outs. Better yet, consult Google Maps and hit the bike or walk icon to help you find the safest route. 

When the day comes to ride to school, keep in mind that little legs may not be fully prepared for the journey. Take it slow and easy. Be open to taking breaks and taking in the scenery, too, especially if riding with little ones. 

2

Be Seen And Heard

Wear white or bright neon colors when biking to and from school. Consider putting a flashing light on your handlebars and/or seat tube to use for any bigger crossings or if riding in a bike lane. The light is also helpful if you need to see in low-light conditions, and it increases visibility. White lights are best for the front, while red lights are best for the back. 

Use a bike bell to signal to other riders, walkers or path users when you are approaching. Be sure to call out, “On your left,” when passing anyone on the path. When possible, call out any hazards you see to other riders. 

Use proper hand signals if riding on the road. To signal a left turn, fully extend your left arm out to your side. To signal a right turn, extend your right arm out to your side. To show that you are about to stop, extend your left arm out and bend your arm down at a 90-degree angle with your hand open.

Follow the rules of the road. Practice etiquette when riding, too. Walkers/runners have the right of way on paths and trails. 

3

Dress The Part 

As mentioned above, consider wearing white or reflective clothing while riding to school. When getting dressed to ride, consider the wind chill and other factors that will affect how you dress. Layers are important so that you can be comfortable on the ride to and from school. Choose gloves over mittens for dexterity in the fingers. 

Clothing should not be constricting. Clothes that are too long or dangling have a chance to be caught up in the wheels or chain ring. For this reason, pant legs should also be rolled up on the right-hand side to prevent interference and getting chain grease on the pants. 

A helmet is a must, no matter how short the ride to and from school is. In fact, most states have a law that any child under 18 must wear one. A helmet will also help keep you warm on those chilly rides. 

4

Do An Equipment Check

Before you head out, be sure your bike is in good working order. Consider getting an overall bike tune-up if you haven’t had one in a while or your bike has been collecting dust.

Perform the ABC check each time you go for a ride. Make sure your tires have air. Check tire pressure on both the front and back tires. Give those brakes a squeeze to be sure they are in good working order. Give the brake pads a once-over to be sure they aren’t worn down. Don’t forget to check the chain to be sure it is oiled. Is the seat at the right height and tightened down? 

5

Be Prepared For Changing Conditions 

This tip can be interpreted in two ways, both of which are important to riding safely to and from school. Weather conditions may change throughout the day. Be prepared with proper clothing and gear to tackle those changing conditions. A quick check of the weather will help you be prepared. 

Sometimes weather will cause changes along the route, including water, snow or ice. Lower tire pressure for winter weather, and consider lowering the seat a bit, too.

Also, be sure to be on top of construction, closures and other things that may affect your typical route. You may have to divert or change your regular route due to these circumstances. Sometimes, unforeseen circumstances may make for changing conditions. In this case, it is always good to know of more than one safe route to school. 

6

Get A Bike Gang Together 

Make it a neighborhood affair by inviting classmates and neighbors to join you on the ride. There is safety in numbers, and sharing the route with friends makes the ride that much more fun. 

7

Celebrate 

National Bike & Roll to School Day is celebrated in the spring (early May), while International Walk & Roll to School Day is celebrated in early October. Head to a park after school or enjoy a post-ride treat to add to the festivities of celebrating these days. 

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