A Partial Victory

The Saratoga Springs, NY school district that previously attempted to prohibit students from riding their bicycles to school has revised their policy to allow bicycles on campus, though with reservations.

Unfortunately, the language in the revised rules seems purposely vague and leaves open the possibility for administrators to disallow bicycle access on a case-by-case basis. From the Times Union:

The new rule permits elementary school students and children attending Maple Avenue Middle School to ride bikes on school properties if they are accompanied by a parent/guardian and register in a note, “providing due diligence by the administration and individual school planning committees has determined that the conditions exist under which bikes may safely access school property.”

The new policy, recommended to the board by a committee, also says school administrators “will develop regulations to specify locations, conditions and requirements for such access and modify them as circumstances change.”

District officials have no jurisdiction outside of school property, but by not allowing bicycles on school property they can effectively prevent students from riding to school.

The issue here is that bicycling, which is statistically safer than either driving to school or walking, is being singled out as dangerous based solely upon the misconceptions of school administrators. According to the Times Union, a large number of people from all over the country (including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich) contacted district administrators urging they change the policy.

Read the article in the Times Union

10 Responses to “A Partial Victory”

  • Frits B says:

    It might help for these school administrators to have a look at David Hembrow’s videos. On the other hand I should add that even here in Holland riding a bicycle on school property, so within the boundaries of the school, is frowned upon. We are not talking campus here, this is about elementary and middle schools where kids arrive by bike, park them and walk to wherever they need to go.

  • Lucas says:

    This baffles me completely… as of this post this is the first I have heard of this situation in NY. In this day and age when there is all this talk of kids not getting enough exercise we have a SCHOOL discouraging one of the best aerobic activities one can do. Since so many people have the conception that “riding bikes” is a kids thing anyway, to have a whole district trying to stop children from riding their bikes to school is truly disturbing.

    What is their real issue? I am now in my mid-30s, but back in my grade through high-school days, I was fortunate enough to live close enough to be able to ride my bike. K-12 I rode my bike (actually, I think I walked or was driven in Kindergarten) but those years are what really kindled my love of cycling in my adult life. To think that that opportunity might not be available to kids because of some misconception of an ignorant administrator is really sad.

    Today I really believe that, more than ever, we (as a society) are WAY to fear based… no one is allowed to do anything, especially children, because of what might happen. Well, one might slip and fall on a twisted rug and hit your head on a table and die… does this then mean that one should eschew rugs and carpets? Should one eliminate all tables and/or bureaus? SHOULD WE EVEN GET OUT OF BED for fear of what MIGHT HAPPEN??

    …considering how “protective” we as a society are getting, though this is an extreme illustration, it seems to be where we are headed.

  • Josef says:

    If those liability laws and respective court rulings did not exist in the US, there would be almost no issue. In Europe, you do most of what you do at your own risk while in the US you can’t even sell a cup of hot coffee without warning people not to spill it over their legs …

  • Alan says:

    @Frits

    “On the other hand I should add that even here in Holland riding a bicycle on school property, so within the boundaries of the school, is frowned upon.”

    To reiterate, the “no bikes on campus” rule was never about riding bikes on school grounds; it was clearly intended to prevent children from riding bicycles to school.

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Josef

    “If those liability laws and respective court rulings did not exist in the US, there would be almost no issue.”

    If that’s the case, it makes you wonder why they don’t try to prevent kids from walking to school as well. I suspect the school administrators have not looked at the data and are operating under misconceptions and personal bias, setting policy based upon the false assumption that bicycling is more dangerous than other forms of transport. I have to admit, we in the bicycling community have done a wonderful job of undermining our own efforts by over-emphasizing safety.

  • Joel van Allen says:

    You can check out school district budget info here:
    http://www.saratogaschools.org/AboutSaratoga/BUDGET/BUDGET2009-10/budgetvoteresults5-19-09.htm

    Interestingly, they’re dealing with just over $2 million in budget cuts this year (out of a voter-approved $110m budget), but plan on spending over $750,000 on new school busses. I used the “Top 10 Things to Know About the School District” on their home page as a point of reference (obviously a generalized one, but telling nevertheless) for understanding why they chose to cut the staff and programs they did while keeping others and, perhaps, discouraging students/parents from using bikes rather than busses). “Operation Safe Child” further down the homepage focuses on child abduction concerns, and this would seem a tempting reason (particularly when voting) to retain programs like the indoor “walkersize” program while keeping unsupervised outdoor personal lifestyle activities to a minimum.

    I would certainly agree that fear, both of predators and predatory litigation, is an underlying concern here, particularly when it affects rankings in the Capital District Business Review (See “The Top 10 Things You Should Know About the Sarasota Springs School District, #1 and #2)

    Also, if anyone would like a job as a bus driver, they’re currently hiring.

  • Lovely Bicycle! says:

    Lucas – This kind of thing is happening all over the US right now, including in several schools near we live in Massachusetts. It is really important in cases like this that parents act and let the schools know that they are against these policies. Otherwise, the trend for this sort of stunt will only spread.

  • Lucas says:

    Lovely Bicycle:

    I live in MA, where in MA is this occurring and why have I not heard of this before?

  • David says:

    I live on Martha’s Vineyard. The dysfunctional school system my children use to attend “discouraged” riding to school but I told them I thought they were being absurd and continued to ride initially with a kindergartner in a bike seat and pre schooler in a trailer. Within a year we had moved up to a tandem and a trail a bike.

    Personally I would tell Saratoga Springs to go blow it out their collective arse. I’m not going to register to ride any where, including to school.

    Just say no to stupidity.

  • Rick says:

    Having served on a school board, I wonder if they may be more concerned about their liability for stolen bikes. The “it’s not my responsibility” mentality will have parents sue the school district for the loss of their child’s bike even though they failed to provide a secure lock or the child failed to use it. Just trying to see the other side!

 
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