I worked with Walk+Roll Peel and the principal at my children’s school in northeast Brampton to encourage participation in Bike Week. The school has an enrollment of 760 students. Bike Week was promoted to families in the school newsletter, advertised on the notice board outside the school on the Friday before Bike Week began and added to the morning announcements at the school.
Historically, 10-15 children have cycled to school in the spring with the most bikes I had ever counted in the bike racks being 27 on one particularly beautiful spring morning.
We began on Tuesday because I was busy on Monday at Bike to Work day leading a group downtown from northeast Brampton.
I had 60 bells from Walk+Roll Peel and screwdrivers. I decided to actually install the bells on the bikes because often giveaways like these end up on dusty shelves in garages. It also gave me a way to determine repeat versus new riders as we progressed through the week. I thought 60 bells would be sufficient as that was more than double the most bikes I had ever seen at the school. I was overwhelmed when 45 children arrived on bikes and had to enlist the help of a couple Grade 8 students to get all the bells installed.
I tweeted congratulations and pictures to the school and challenged them to do better on Wednesday. I also acquired additional bells. Each day I followed the same pattern and the children were amazing. Each day more children rode their bikes to school. By Friday, the racks were overflowing as there is comfortably room for about 55 bikes.
Tuesday 45 cyclists
Tuesday 45 cyclists
Total individual cyclists over the week was 121 from a school population of 760. It was much more successful than my most optimistic projections.
I continued to check the bike racks every few days and amazingly, the little bit of encouragement made a lasting change. Daily thereafter, until the end of the school year, there were 50-60 children riding.
When school started again this fall 30 -40 students rode their bikes each day without any additional encouragement as was provided during Bike to School week. The number has slowly dwindled as the weather has become cooler, wetter and windier. By this point in prior years there would have been no cyclists at all. However, as of this morning, November 16, twelve students are still riding.
Imagine the change we can make if this type of effort is made at every school every year.