5.13.2012

Bike to School Day

Near the end of our trip I was contacted by a SRTS advocate in Indianapolis, Jennie Pyrz, to see if by any chance we'd be in Indiana in time for Transportation Secretary Lahood's visit on National Walk to School Day.  Unfortunately, though it would have been terrific to meet Mr. Lahood, we were in Santa Cruz that day, Apr 27, preparing for our big finale ride into San Francisco.  Fortunately, Indiana is on my way home and the timing worked out perfectly for me to be here on the very first National Bike to School Day!  Jennie connected me to a couple of downtown Indy schools and I made arrangements to stay with family of mine in a northern suburb called Noblesville. 

Bike to School Day, May 9, dawned a cool clear morning and the sun sparkled in the shiny blue paint of my lovely bike as I pulled it out of the van.  Now 10 days since our last ride in California, I've been feeling severe long-ride withdrawal, exaggerated by all the driving I've been doing.  Stephanie and I took a couple of easy spins in Naperville over the weekend but I was looking forward to a full morning of riding on unknown roads. 

I rolled out just as the sun was coming up over the cornfields, with time to cruise 20 miles to the first school - Immaculate Heart of Mary K-8 School (IHM) - before 8am morning assembly.  My route took me past subdivisions for 10 miles and then hooked up with a rail trail for the remaining half.  Not sure what to expect, I had a surprising treat in store for me.  Freshly-paved shared-use paths lined the major roads past the subdivisions, and the Monon Trail was a gem - recognized as a rail trail hall of famer!  Very few other users were out at that time of the morning so I was in bike heaven as I flew through lush forested parkland and past quaint neighborhoods, restaurants, and coffee shops.  Even when I left the Monon at the northern end of downtown the streets were wide and easy to navigate.  Who knew?  Bike-friendly Indianapolis!

I arrived at IHM with 5 minutes to spare before the school-wide morning assembly, and was met by enthusiastic SRTS parent and champions Hilary Oberlies and Molly Noble.  IHM was the winner of the Walk to School Challenge during the month of April between four area schools and was receiving the trophy that day as an award.  I helped to present the trophy to Vice-Principal Ronda Schwarz (the Principal was away with the 8th graders on their Washington DC trip), and then spoke briefly to the students about our trip, emphasizing how lucky they were to live in a neighborhood with a community school and to be able to walk or ride their bikes to school.

Awarding the Walk Challenge trophy to IHM Vice-Principal Ronda Schwarz and Hilary Oberlies

Me and Taylor Oberlies, 4th grader at IHM
The other school on my schedule was right across the street from IHM.  Public School 84, also known as the Center for Inquiry - a very formal title for a beautiful community K-8 magnet school - was making a big deal out of the very first annual National Bike to School Day.  Kathy Whited was the SRTS champion that organized bike decorating parties and several bike trains to maximize student participation.  I rode a few blocks away from the school to join a bike train back to school and had a chance to speak to some of the parents.  Once the third bike train had arrived we counted nearly 90 students that had ridden their bikes to school.  Both bike racks were jammed and the handicapped ramp railing served as overflow locking space.  Very impressive participation, and kudos to Kathy for her great organizing and parent-recruiting work!  I again spoke briefly during the morning assembly and though I hadn't been allotted time to answer questions, hands were shooting up anyway around the gym while I talked. 



National Bike to School Day train to CFI

Bike to School train #2

Morning assembly at CFI Public School 84

I had breakfast with Kathy and her husband Kevin, executive director of the local bike advocacy group INDYCOG, following the assembly at CFI, and was able to hear more about what's happening in Indianapolis for bicycling.  I really was impressed by the bike friendliness of the parts of the city I experienced, and I hope to have another chance to come back and ride in the area.  Thanks Kathy and Kevin for allowing me to participate in your National Bike to School Day events, and for making me feel so welcome in the city!

It was especially lucky that my visit to the Indianapolis area and to my Aunt Debra's house coincided with a visit by her mom, my Great Aunt Charlene, who had already played host to our whole team in the Phoenix area.  Debra and Charlene treated me like a queen, spoiling me with all the ice cream I could eat, dinner out, and kingly sleeping arrangements.  It was very nice to see them - thank you to both of them for a really wonderful visit!

1 comment:

  1. You and RASR's success continue to inspire me and folks all across the land. Thanks, Jeanie, and to your entire pedaling team.
    Mom and I bicycled 30 miles this morning with 12,000 of our closest friends in the Bike DC event on Pennsylvania Avenue, Rock Creek Parkway, the George Washington Parkway, and around the Iwo Jima and Air Force Memorials. I was struck that this is the future of commuting - active, fun, safe, and building community and friendship rather than isolation and pollution. Thanks, RASR, for helping us get closer to that day.

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