Third grader Irene Dye loves riding her bike to school at Academie Lafayette. “It feels good because it stretches my muscles,” she says. “It’s not that hard to do it, and I feel really good when I’m done.” When school started in August, hers was the only bicycle locked to the railing that served as a bike rack in the staff parking lot, but Principal Heather Royce soon saw more students and staff corralling their bikes with Irene’s. “We started asking around about bike racks and found out that we had an extra one at our other campus, which our great maintenance guy brought over and installed.” The rack is situated in a secure location on the campus under a roof overhang, where the bikes will be protected from rain.
According to DuRon Netsell, Bike Parking Specialist at BikeWalkKC, “Bike parking is essential to ensure students are able to safely secure their bikes and have the option of riding to and from school.” Additionally, official bike racks “liven up a school’s appearance, symbolizing that it is a safe, fun place to learn.” Irene is excited about the rack because, “it might encourage other kids to ride their bikes to school. If they see people enjoying it and if they had a place to put their bikes they might try it.” She hopes to continue to inspire other families to commute by bike. Her mother, Jennifer Dye, is confident she will succeed: “I feel blessed to have Academie Lafayette as one of my partners in raising a strong, independent young lady who is capable of doing anything she sets her mind to.”
In 1960, more than half of all students walked or biked to school, but today fewer than 15% use active transportation. BikeWalkKC works with schools around the region, reforming district policy, engaging in infrastructure planning, and establishing commuting groups, all in the name of creating Safe Routes to School. Teachers and administrators recognize that kids who walk or bike to school start their day with exercise and arrive at school ready to learn. Parents give up the pick-up queue, and city officials see less traffic congestion and better air quality. Most importantly, kids enjoy their commute!
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Photo: Intern William DuPont and third grader Irene Dye commute by bike to Academie Lafayette in Kansas City. They say “MERCI!” for new bike parking!