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Why We're Sitting Out National Bike to School Day

Today is national "Bike to School Day,” which is a good chance for families to get together, have some exercise, make a statement, and try something new. But my kids and I won’t be taking part.

We bike Fridays.

For the last year-and-a-half, we’ve skipped the carpool on the day I work from home, so we can pedal our way across San Francisco.

We start early: around 7:15am. Gloves, helmets, pumped up tires. Water bottles. Cello and violin.

Yeah, that’s right. Friday is also music day. I bungee the fiddle case to my bike rack and strap the cello to my back.

And, we’re off!

We head uphill, over city streets, getting our legs underneath us. The kids don’t talk much, at first, but they keep up. I’ll give a pointer, now and then. “Keep your distance from car doors,” or, “Make sure to stay single-file.” But mostly, I say nothing. We just listen to the sound of the world waking up around us.

And soon, the ride gets way, way better.

We head into Golden Gate Park, and suddenly it’s a much different landscape. We pass ducks swimming in a pond and squirrels scampering up cypress trees. My senses awaken. Songbirds surround us, creating a layered symphony for our ears. Sunbeams wash through eucalyptus leaves, cutting through the hazy morning.

As we head up pathways devoted to bicycles, the nature of my comments change. “Do you hear those birds?” I ask. “The air is so clean, isn’t it?” My kids breathe heavily, but they smile when they look up. “Yeah, Dad.”

The bike path runs out, and we rejoin traffic. The kids fall in behind me, just like I’ve taught them to. We come up to a stop sign. I extend my arm to the left, signaling our intentions to traffic. The kids watch from behind and follow me out of the park.

The rest of the ride takes us through city streets, some of them pretty busy. The kids don’t mind, anymore. We’ve done it enough times. They know to stay close when we’re coming up on a streetlight. They watch pedestrians and cars, to make sure nothing unexpected happens. They’re urban bicyclists: age 10.

A couple of blocks from school, we reach a one-block hill that’s pretty steep. I slow down to let the kids catch up and pass me. “You can do it,” I say. “Keep going!” They’re plenty warm by now and handle it with ease. It makes me smile to see them crest the hill and coast down the home stretch. “Good job! Good job!”

It’s 8am. Kyle and Erin have already had a streetwise education. Now they’re ready for some schooling. I unstrap the cello and violin, and the kids head in to class. I head home.

So, yeah. Today is “Bike to School Day,” and that’s a great thing for all the families who choose to take part. Unfortunately, we can’t make it, Wednesdays.

But we’ll be back at it this Friday. And the next one. And the one after that.

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Image (cc) flickr user Korean Resource Center

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