Clockwise from top: Volunteer Erick Betancourt with students from Ross Valley Charter form a bike train to celebrate National Bike to School Day. | Lynwood student Hanna Jasson, 9, dressed as Yoda for National Bike to School Day and the end of the Return of the J.E..DI. challenge. | Marin student Rosario Mendoza is elated to be declared the winner of a Cleary bike on May 3. | Owen Wentzel at Miller Creek.
On the cold, rainy morning of May 3rd, over 3,000 students from 38 Marin schools walked and rolled to school to celebrate National Bike to School Day. The date also marked the grand finale of the Return of the J.E.D.I. Challenge, a three-month-long contest organized by Safe Routes to Schools.
National Bike to School Day is the second largest celebration of active transportation held by Safe Routes to Schools every year.
.Many schools went big on their celebrations this year: Reed, Bel Aire, Vallecito, Manor and Ross Valley Charter organized bike trains, Lynwood Elementary registered a 74% percent participation, and Loma Verde offered additional prizes for walkers and rollers. They represent just a few examples of the celebratory spirit during Bike to School Day in the County.
“Kids were really excited about the JEDI Challenge. The day before every event, I sent out a text to remind the parents and increase the participation. I think it was very fun,” noted Loma Verde Community Liaison Virginia Menzel.
.To participate in the challenge, students walked, biked, scooted, skated, rode the bus or carpooled to school and visited the Safe Routes’ welcome table, where parent volunteers handed them “J.E.D.I. cards.” These were stamped by the volunteers on every other Wednesday and entered into a drawing. Cleary Bikes, a Richmond-based kids’ bikes dealership, and Marin-based Mike’s Bikes donated one bike and one helmet respectively per school site.
“I am a single mom and it’s been hard for me to provide my daughter with many things,” said Thera Thompson, the mother of 11-year-old Jewel Argueta, a fifth grader from Olive Elementary who won one of the bikes. She notes that her daughter, in fact, did not own a bike. Thompson adds that, “Jewel has walked to school every day on her own for the last two years and it’s far, so I think this bike will help her with her independence.” Jewel will be using the bike to commute to Sinaloa Middle School next year.
Eight-year-old Brandon Rodas, a second grader from Loma Verde, had a gut feeling he was going to win the bike, according to his mom, Hilda Rodas. “He mentioned that in the morning and he called later from the school and told me, ‘I told you I was going to win it!’,” she said. Rodas added that she and her husband had been meaning to buy a new bike for Brandon for a while because the one he is using is way too small, but they also did not have the money to replace it.
“It’s been an inspiration seeing how excited the kids get for the group rides to school, many of them with smiles ear to ear going into their classes. These kids are our future adult commuters that are learning the importance of safe routes and the partnership needed between all road users to make it work. I’m really excited to continue working with parents and MCBC on this great program.”
Volunteer mechanics from the Bike Mobile fixed about 50 bicycles for free on Saturday, May 20th at Pickleweed Park in San Rafael. The event, organized by the Marin Bicycle Coalition and Safe Routes to Schools, demonstrated their commitment to the Canal community.
One of the goals of the event is to help low-income students restore their bikes so they can be enjoyed safely. This meant new tires, fresh brake pads, and chains, among other things. Student mechanic, Nayed Garcia, a two-time Bike Fest volunteer, said, “The event is incredibly empowering and it feels great to renew these bikes and then get to see them pedaled around the neighborhood all summer long.”
In addition, Safe Routes hosted a comprehensive bicycle safety class, attended by 30 enthusiastic young riders. Many of them were Bahia Vista Elementary students, ages five to 10. The class covered essential safety rules, responsible riding behavior, and the correct use of safety gear. The aim was to empower these young riders with the knowledge they need to safely navigate their neighborhood, contributing to a safer, healthier community.
But what’s a Bike Fest without a parade? As an event finale, MCBC and Safe Routes organized a family-friendly bike parade along the scenic Bay Trail, chaperoned by teens from the Cory’s Ride Bicycle Club who are models of safe riding behavior.
The organizers are already planning for next year’s event, which may feature a helmet giveaway. “The safety of our young riders is paramount, and we believe that this initiative will further contribute to their well-being and confidence as they explore their neighborhood on two wheels,” said Safe Routes to Schools Volunteer Coordinator Cooper Miley.
Loma Verde parent volunteer Kelly Smith tends to a welcome table in the Spring.
Bringing the Safe Routes to Schools program to life takes a village. A crew of over 115 parent volunteers (some of them PTA Presidents), community liaisons, teachers, principals, and office managers, joined the seven staff members from Safe Routes to Schools, to make it happen for the children of Marin.
Safe Routes to Schools wants to thank all the people involved in 52 schools. Because of all of them, Safe Routes to Schools managed to host 350 morning welcome tables to greet walkers and rollers and to teach over 10,000 students how to ride and walk safely. Many volunteers and school administrators also attended the Task Force Meetings, where they voiced their concerns about infrastructure surrounding the schools.
Simply put, Safe Routes to Schools would not exist without all of them. Here are the members of our 2022-23 village that brought life skills and joy to thousands of children this year.
A whopping 74% of Lynwood Elementary’s families walked and rolled to school for what turned into an umbrella party by the school entrance on May 3rd. The date marked the celebration of the National Bike to School Day, the second most important celebration of active transportation organized by Safe Routes to Schools every spring. It was also the wrap up of the three-month-long challenge, the Return of the J.E.D.I.
Ten parent volunteers, loud pop music, hundreds of incentives big and small, and ample coverage by the Marin Independent Journal were part of the big celebration. To read the full story published by the Marin Independent Journal, click HERE.
“This has been a great success today,” Interim Principal Rick Van Adelsberg told the Marin IJ. “Folks just stepped up in spite of the rain.” He noted that he saw the least number of cars at drop off since December, when he started working at Lynwood.
The effort was led by parent volunteer Janet Carter, who created a huge publicity buzz in her community. Carter considers that encouraging families who live far from the school to park and walk the rest of the way substantially increased the participation in the contest.
For the occasion, Safe Routes to Schools raffled off a bike donated by Cleary Bikes and a helmet donated by Mike’s Bikes. Carter also approached local businesses for prizes, securing 100 bike bells from Class Cycle and sixty $5 gift cards from Little Monkeys toy store. Both businesses are from Novato.
The noise the students made with the bike bells could be heard all over the Lynwood campus during the extent of the event. At the end of the event, Nathaly Ramos Pérez, a third grader, won the bicycle and helmet.
Other children were just happy to be there for the celebration. “We like walking to school. It’s easier than to get in the car. We like the small prizes we receive on Walk and Roll Days and the idea that somebody we know can win the big prize is exciting,” said 9-year-old Kairi Leyland, who is in fourth grade. She walks to school regularly with her little sister Astrid, 6, a kindergartener.
Marin Safe Routes to Schools is proud to announce the winners of the Bike Hero awards. There were 138 nominations and 24 schools represented in our BIKE HERO 2023 contest! Teachers, parents, neighbors, and fellow students sent in testimonials of students leading their peers, climbing big hills, and helping little brothers – all while obeying the rules of the road on bike. Two students were selected from elementary and two students from middle for the 2023 award. Congratulations to them and to all the students who were nominated!
Here is what friends and family had to say about our BIKE HEROES for 2023:
Ulysses Levitt, Laurel Dell, Kindergarten:
Ulysses deserves to win the Bike Hero award, because from the start of Kindergarten he consistently rode his bike to school. Beyond his consistency, partway through the year, on his way to school one day he fell off his bike and broke his arm. After getting a cast and rehabilitating it, he has gotten back on his bike and has been trying to conquer the spot that he fell off. He has been taking some steps to rebuild his confidence (like putting training wheels back on and walking his bike through the spot he fell off), but he continues to try! It is this dedication and determination in a 6 year old that I think is the definition of a Bike to School Hero.
Maggie Arenas, Hidden Valley Elementary, 4th grade:
Since kindergarten, Maggie has been riding her bike to and from school (two miles each way from Fairfax to Hidden Valley). She rides her bike rain or shine, 90 degrees or 28 degrees wearing double gloves and a puffy coat. We are so grateful that we are able to continue our jobs because she can ride her bike to school. She also encourages others in our neighborhood to ride too. Maggie cares for the environment and hopes to continue to navigate the busy roads (especially Butterfield) by riding her bike through fifth grade next year, and of course when she starts White Hill too. We are so proud of our Bike to School Hero from the moment she started riding as a 6 year old until this very moment as a 10 year old.
August Larsen, San Jose Intermediate, 8th grade:
August is a safe and friendly rider. He has ridden his bike to school daily for three years and now is looking forward to high school riding. He is safe and reads the traffic well. He rides with his brother and encourages him to get up the “big hill” on Sunset. I’ve seen him take care of others while on his bike, offering to help put a chain back on or help change a tire. He is always on his bike!
Aurora DeVilbiss, Kent Middle, 8th grade:
I am Aurora’s neighbor and I frequently see her biking to school much earlier than many students, showing me that she has an early program to get to. As an 8th grader, Aurora is one of the older riders and sets a very good example for the many younger riders taking the same route. She is always in a helmet and focused on her surroundings, which is essential for navigating two very busy intersections along her route, including Wolfe Grade. She also slows and stops when conditions require it, like on narrow and congested side streets.
Over 10,000 students from 59 elementary and middle schools benefited this year from 400 pedestrian bike safety classes taught by Marin Safe Routes to Schools. The purpose of these classes is to teach children how to navigate the streets safely while using an active mode of transportation.
This year, the program added ten new and returning schools to the education program.
The two main components of instruction are Pedestrian Safety for 2nd and 3rd Graders, and Bicycle Skills and Safety for 4th, 5th and 6th Graders.
During the pedestrian safety classes, students shoot their hands up to share what the benefits of walking and riding to school are. Most are well informed of how cars contribute to global warming, and they consistently mention that fewer cars on the road is better for the Earth. Mental and physical health and less traffic are other common answers they offer.
At first, the students are taught a theoretical class on how to cross the street safely. On a follow-up session, the second and third graders are taken out on a brief “field trip, ” where they can practice what was explained to them before. The outing is led by a teacher and at least one Safe Route to Schools staff member.
In the meantime, 4th-6th graders benefit from a “bike rodeo.” There, they learn how to ride a bike, keep their balance, decide what way to turn, scan their surroundings, remove a hand from the handle bar to signal, among many other skills.
For the bike rodeos, Safe Routes provides bikes and helmets to students who do not own one. Scooters are also available for those who prefer them or do not know how to ride a bike.
Classes are scheduled normally during the physical education time. The primary goal is for them to learn the rules of the road and ride safely. But more than anything else, Safe Routes want to help kids envision a world with fewer cars, and help them see the fun and joy that riding bikes can bring to their lives,” said Safe Routes Lead Instructor Tyler Randazzo.
If you want to schedule Safe Routes’ pedestrian and bike safety classes, contact Katy Vanoni, Safe Routes to Schools Education Coordinator, at [email protected]
Each year, the Transportation Authority of Marin honors one of its many crossing guards for outstanding service to their community.
This year’s honoree is Alice Yan who helps students safely cross the intersection of Throckmorton and Old Mill near the front of Old Mill School in Mill Valley. Starting in 2016, Alice has never missed a shift for the last six plus year. Alice came to the United State in 1991 and has been a Mill Valley resident since then.
Alice was honored at the TAM board meeting on May 25th. Both Supervisor Stephanie Moulton Peters and Mill Valley councilmember Urban Carmel had children who attended Old Mill School. Supervisor Moulton Peters presented the award, “Alice, on behalf of the TAM Board, our community, our teachers, staff and our school children I would like to express our deepest appreciation for your profound dedication to keeping our school kids safe!
“Thank you for your dedicated service to the Children of Marin. Your work as a Crossing Guard has made a difference to countless students and families in the community. We appreciate your commitment to safety, your caring manner and your welcoming smile!”