An article in the Star Ledger last week told the story of high school students in the environmental club at Bridgewater-Raritan High School in Central New Jersey that were prohibited from installing bike racks on school grounds. The school principle said that the roads were too dangerous for students to bike and that the school did not want to be held liable for any bike accidents that occurred while students were biking to school. Incredibly, a group of 50 students from the environmental and biking clubs, as well as other concerned students, retaliated by biking to school, without any injuries, and locking their bikes throughout their front of the school. I must commend these students for their proactive attitudes. In a society where it is difficult to simply get kids away from television, video games, computer and a slew of other sedentairy “activities” these students at Bridgewater-Raritan High School are demanding their right to a healthy and active lifestyle.
However, the administration at the high school feels that biking to school is too dangerous for students and encourages them to take they bus or drive to school, putting thousands of dollars into expanding the parking lot for cars (thats right, they want less bikes and more cars!).
For the benefit of the administrators at Bridgewater-Raritan HS, I would like to briefly consider the dangers of not riding your bike to school. If student A and student B both live 5 miles from BRHS, and student A rides his bike and student B drives. Student A bikes at about 15mph, which is quite easy especially for a high school-aged student, he will get to and from school in approximately 20mins each way, and have burned a total of 600 Calories/Day (enough to offset a school lunch of pizza (370Cal), Choc. Milk (170Cal), and salad with dressing (~100Cal). However, the only Calories student B burns are on his 15-30 min commute to school is when he is shouting at the traffic in front of him.
I don’t think that the problem with biking to school is a lack of safe roads, I bike upwards of 250 miles a week in the same area as BRHS as training part of my training for the Rutgers Cycling Team and I have never once been hit by a car or had any other road related injury. However, I will agree that these roads are heavily used and their are some dangers, but if you are aware of your surroundings and road conditions, biking becomes a safe and affordable alternative to driving to local destinations. My organization, Bike N’ Walk, helps communities just like Bridgewater increase their bikability by providing them with interactive mapping websites that allow the community to monitor road conditions and determine the best bike routes by logging on and submitting their personal knowledge of the area to the interactive map of the local community. We have already provided maps for the West Windsor and New Brunswick/Rutgers areas with great success . I think that with the determination of the students at BRHS and the proper resources, BRHS students will get a valuable real-world education in conservation and the power in numbers. So my final words of wisdom for the students of Bridgewater-Raritan High School are KEEP RIDING!!!