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An Unexpected Silver Lining: Let’s Make Sure Bike Riding to School Is Part of The New Norm

by Lisa Montanaro

· ARTICLES

It’s been a long winter – in more ways than one. The chilly wet weather kept adults and children cooped up indoors more than usual, and sadly, so did the pandemic. Most people were hunkered down, spending hours glued to computer screens working from home or attending classes. But now we see that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. We’re entering the wonderful warm weather season, and hopefully will be seeing the worst part of the pandemic behind us with vaccinations ramping up and herd immunity starting to take effect. Going back to school and work will take on new meaning this time around. It’s the chance to reconnect with teachers, students, and work colleagues in person.

It’s also the perfect opportunity to incorporate bike riding into the school and workday!

Close your eyes and think back: Do you remember the first time you rode a bike? Remember how it felt when your feet left the ground, gripped the pedals, and you could feel yourself moving? Exhilarating and empowering! Now imagine feeling that every day. It helps elevate the mundane commute into something more significant and memorable.

While most people are itching to return to pre-pandemic life, what they call “back to normal,” it’s in our power to create a New Normal based on some unexpected lessons learned in the past year. One of the silver linings to come out of the pandemic is how many people jumped on two wheels. Thousands of families picked up the new habit of riding bikes and discovered the joy it brings. Bike riding during the pandemic helped adults and children feel less isolated during an unprecedented situation and more connected to their community. Decreased vehicle traffic made it safer and more joyful to be outdoors, while improving the environment, air quality, and our physical and mental health. Let’s not bring back traffic congestion and chaos on our roads, at our intersections, and in front of every school in the area.

Now that many parents have broken the habit of driving their kids to school and after school activities, this is the perfect time to incorporate bike riding into your routine. Parents can accompany their kids to school by bike and get additional exercise by then riding to work or back home – with a possible stop for a cup of coffee along the way. For older kids, parents can encourage them to ride to school with local classmates. Riding a bike to school provides kids an opportunity to socialize with friends and get fresh air and exercise. It also promotes independence and a way to get some energy out before school even begins. Kids get a chance to be outdoors on a daily basis, which is so important considering a large portion of their days are spent indoors. Also, biking to school is sometimes easier on parents with young children than taking the time to strap them into car seats, and waiting in the car line at the drop-off zone. Indeed, bike riding to school helps keep car congestion down in the area surrounding the school on busy mornings and afternoons. Before school restarts, test out various bike riding routes to compare and see which ones are the safest and most enjoyable.

As the days get longer, the world becomes healthier, and our hearts get fuller with the promise of being together in person again, let’s not lose sight of the lemonade that we may have made during a difficult time. This is an opportunity for bike-savvy adults to thoughtfully decide what the New Normal will look like, and to serve as “roll” models to their children – and other adults.

This article was written by Lisa Montanaro, commissioned by The Bike Campaign. For more information about how to “Bike More. Drive Less.” contact Maria Contreras Tebbutt at funmaria@sbcglobal.net or www.TheBikeCampaign.com.

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