Saturday, September 12, 2009

Countryside biking ban

Countryside Elementary School policy prohibits all but 5th graders from biking to school. ( Now, Parent Beth Israel informs us, 5th graders are also banned from biking to school, at least temporarily. Principal Emily Ostrower emailed the policy to Countryside parents on Sept. 10, explaining that the Newton Police Department failed to administer required bike safety training to the students, which it has provided in the past as a prerequisite to permitting students to bike.

Principal Ostrower noted that recently, a student on a bike accidentally ran into a grandparent on school grounds, underscoring an apparent need for the policy.

Is it within the authority of a school principal to set rules on how parents and their children choose to travel to school? Are only police or teachers, not parents, qualified to teach their kids biking safety? What are the relative safety risks to schoolyard pedestrians from kids on bikes compared to cars? Would we ban cars if there were an accident in the drop-off/pick-up zone? What message are we sending to kids about environmentally sustainable lifestyles when we ban them from biking?

Here are some reasonable alternatives:

- Prohibit bike riding on school grounds. Students must walk bikes when on school grounds and on approaching sidewalks.

- Place bike racks in locations that promote safety for both pedestrians and bikers.

- Urge parents to conduct or arrange bike safety training, and for younger kids, to accompany them on bikes to school.

The bottom line is that there has to be a better solution to biking safety issues than banning biking altogether. Parents, teachers, school administrators, bike advocacy groups, and the Newton PD should get together to formulate a safe and sensible policy.


Filigree said...

When I read this post, my first reaction was actually that of relief - For a moment there I thought they outlawed cycling in the countryside surrounding Boston.

Now that I understand the issue: I have seen kids behave "badly" on bikes, including terrorising pedestrians. It is understandable that the school wishes to prevent this. At the same time, they cannot possibly ave the right to control how their students arrive to school. It should be possible to prohibit cycling on school grounds without extending this to forbid cycling for transportation to the school grounds. Simply have signs and issue memos stating that students must dismount and walk their bikes upon arriving on school grounds. Those who fail to comply will get detention, or the parents will be fined. Problem solved.

Anonymous coward said...

Wouldn't you think that dismounting and walking bikes on school grounds, or at least where pedestrians are present, was the rule in the first place? Perhaps one of the rules that the PD was supposed to teach?

Can a principal tell students that they can't bring bicycles on school grounds? Sure, why not. Let's get tough on the PD for failing to do their job here, not on the principal. It sounds like getting the police to show up and conduct the same bike safety education that Newton residents have had for generations would fix this problem.

Filigree said...

Anon. coward - That is a good point; I am curious whether that had been a rule in the first place or not. If it was, then I would still say that it could be stronger enforced. Even if students undergo safety training by the police, they will not have incentive to follow what they are taught unless penalties are in place. I am blaming neither the principle nor the PD without further information (we do not have the full story here and it seems unfair to jump to conclusions about the PD); just trying to think of a solution.

Andy said...

The nanny state strikes again. Why can't they just take care of the person that terrorized the pedestrian or had the accident.

30 years ago we never had "bike safety training." Somehow, we managed.

Of course they would not stop people from driving if there was a car accident. That would be un-American.

ha1ku said...

Eh, I think the school is over-extending its authority. I do believe the principal is right that safety training should be highly encouraged. We can't very well just put noob kids on bikes and throw them out in traffic.

In short, all the school can do is (a) recommend (b) regulate activity on school property. As for the parents, they need to get off their butts and own this part of their children's schooling experience.

Anonymous coward said...

@Andy, FWIW, there was definitely bicycle safety 30 years ago here in Newton. I can attest to that. But your points are well taken.