Smile Politely

Bike/Walk to School Day report from Centennial

Yesterday was International Walk to School Day (they’ve graciously opened their arms to include bicycling, as well). Mary Malloy, a German teacher at Centennial High School, led efforts to get her fellow faculty to participate in the event. She took time to answer a few questions by email:

Smile Politely: Are you a regular bike commuter?

Mary Malloy: NO, so unfortunately not, I am NOT a regular bike commuter. I have a 49cc Honda scooter that I take in good weather. When I go to the University for anything, however, I do bike, e.g. all last summer.

SP: What is it about Bike/Walk to School Day that motivated you to give it a try?

MM: I lived sort of in-and-out of Berlin, Germany, for close to 18 years and biked a lot. The transportation imagination of the Europeans is huge and the bike lanes, bike traffic lights, and general consciousness of car drivers make it a great city in which to be an urban biker — not to mention the prohibitive cost of owning a car and the near impossibility of finding a parking spot! Here, I have numerous “good reasons” for taking the scooter or the car; on a priority list of 10, biking is at the bottom. Bike-to-School flips that and allows me to put biking at #1, at least for a day.

SP: How far was your commute this morning? Did you have any difficulties on your trip to Centennial?

MM: Three miles. Because I had long ago become adept at finding quiet direct streets on the scooter, I took basically the same route on the bike. Only Prospect, then Springfield were a bit busy and spooky. 

SP: Did you notice more students and faculty biking and walking to school today?

MM: Four of us biked in: Fred Newport, English; Rosanne Brighton, Interpreter for the Deaf; Pam Alexander, Math; and I, German. Another math teacher bikes in everyday anyway, and yet another really wanted to join but was sick. Go Math Department!

SP: Anything else you’d like to share about the event or your experience with it?

MM: When I taught at Edison, I used to tell the kids: “This looks just exactly like a German school, old historic building (although German school buildings are beautifully preserved) except for ONE THING: the schoolyard would be full, packed, with bikes. I will never forget a chubby little 8th grader telling me: “Frau Malloy, I would bike to school, but my mom won’t let me. She thinks it’s too dangerous!” This just broke my heart, but it’s true — the streets around the schools are IGNORED as far as good biking access goes. C-U planners seem to want bikes away, off the streets, on bike paths to be used for leisure, and not integrated in complete streets encouraging people to use them to commute. No transportation imagination. No meeting of the teen-obesity folks and the street builders.

I knew this would happen: it took me a mere 13-14 minutes to get down to school. The scooter is hardly faster. And the weather was absolutely perfect, superb day for a ride. I noticed things I never did before on the scooter, even though it too is more exposed to the actual street. One kid suggested: “You teachers ought to do ‘skateboard to school’ day!”

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