Your guide to the best day ever with these Bike to School Day tips
One exciting tradition we look forward to every year is Bike to School Day put on by our school. When we did it for the first time, I didn’t realize what an event it was! There was a sea of families on bikes headed toward school and the kids had such a blast. All of the kids said it was the best day ever and asked to do it again the next day!
Walking and biking to school is a healthy way to get some extra steps in and spend a few more minutes of quality time together as a family. There is a national Walk to School and Bike to School day, but many schools set their own dates. Ask your school when yours will be and start preparing for the big day!
Bike to School Day
Whether your children usually ride the bus to school or get dropped off with carpool, Bike to School Day is an event you’ll want to participate in with your community. There is one set day where all students are invited to bike to school with their families. As you get closer to the school and there are so many people around doing the same thing, it feels like you’re participating in a marathon. The kids love seeing their neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods from a different point of view and speed.
Time of Year
Every school district does it differently, but ours does a Walk to School Day in the fall and a Bike to School Day in the spring. It’s usually close to the beginning of the year and end of the year so there is plenty of daylight and the weather is usually reliable. National Bike To School Day is usually held in May and National Walk to School Day is usually held in October each year. Depending on how far you live from the school, you can choose to make both days Bike to School Day as walking may not be feasible.
Once your school announces its Bike to School Day date, you can start to plan for it. Plan to work from home that day or go in a little later. Map out your route. Think about how you’ll get the bikes home. You will probably ride back home after your child gets to school. Will you ride back to school in the afternoon and ride home together? You will have to notify the school that your child won’t be riding the bus home or however he or she usually gets home. Will you go back and pick the bike up? Make sure you have space in your car and that your child knows they won’t be riding bikes home.
Coordinate With Neighbors
Our neighbors are great about planning to meet at one person’s house for donuts, coffee, and juice. We have changed up whose house we meet at but it’s usually someone who is on the way. In the past, we’ve had a set up of a cute table and stand of goodies for a fun pit stop. Then when it’s Go Time, we all ride together in a big group. There’s always a ton of people headed towards the school and we just follow the crowd, but if you don’t have this situation I’d map out the route beforehand. Pick the route with the fewest and safest crossings or choose trails rather than main roads if possible.
Set a Schedule and Ground Rules
We usually overestimate how long it takes to ride to school. Partly because the kids are so excited and ride faster than I’d like them to! However, if you have a younger sibling who is coming along, they will likely be going much slower than the older sibling. If you have two adults, one can pull the younger sibling in a trailer or ride slowly with them on their training wheels while the other adult rides with the faster child. If you don’t have two adults, make sure your child knows to stay with you and to not get too far ahead.
Make sure to have a conversation with your children before the big day so they understand that they need to either stay next to you, or at least not to cross any major streets without an adult. In my experience, all of the boys take off together and ride really fast.. It can be chaotic once you get close to school, so it’s best to tell them to stay with you or behind an adult they know.
Prepare Your Bikes
Prepare for your big day well in advance by ensuring your tires are pumped and you have all your bike helmets ready. Attach fun bells, horns, or streamers for extra flair! For added safety, you can also look into attaching more reflectors or tall flags to the bikes.
Trailers for Siblings
It’s a whole family affair, so if you have a younger sibling they can either be pulled behind in a bike trailer or a tag along behind your bike. If you’re in the market for a trailer of some sort to pull a younger child, there are a few different options. A typical bike trailer attaches to the back of an adult bike and can hold two to three small children. Ours has a five-point harness and a mesh screen or clear cover option depending on the weather. This is a good option for very small children.
The next step up is an attachment to the back of an adult bike with a wide seat, handrails, and optional pedals. We recently acquired a used Weehoo from the marketplace with a seat that attaches to the back of an adult bike which was perfect for our four-year-old. There are also tag-a-long attachments which basically creates a tandem bike by attaching a small bike to the back of an adult bike. The seats are standard bike seats so they have to hold on but they don’t have to steer or pedal.
Walk to School
For our fall Walk to School Day, our neighborhood has collectively decided to just all ride our bikes. We live just a little too far to walk but I’m sure some of the older kids did it. If your family does want to walk, just make sure you leave early enough to get your child to class on time without being marked tardy. You could even try scooters and skateboards if that cuts the trip time down just a little bit.
What to Wear
Remember, it can be pretty cold in the morning even if it’ll end up being a warm day in the afternoon. Start off with jackets or windbreakers or gloves and hats if it turns out to be very chilly. Closed-toed shoes are recommended over sandals for biking. Pants might be a good idea to protect those knees in case there is a fall. You may also want to pack band-aids in the event there is an accident!
The great thing about Bike to School events is that so many members of the community are out and the kids get so excited to see everybody get involved. There is usually increased police presence at crossings so it feels quite safe. It all happens so fast and it’s only about an hour of your morning, but the kids think it’s the most amazing thing. They ask if it can be Bike to School Day every day!
If your child falls in love with biking after Bike to School Day, explore other places to bike at these favorite bike-friendly trails in Carmel and the greater Indy area. If you’ve got a thrill-seeker in your family, look into introducing them to BMX racing at a track right here in Indianapolis.