Nancy Buffum of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

Success Story: San Francisco Bike and Roll to School Week

An interview with Nancy Buffum of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
Tell us a little about San Francisco Bike and Roll to School Week.

Bike and Roll to School Week is a way that a school community can support ANYONE, a beginner, a veteran biker, or a family to try biking to school. The week-long event, which started in 2009 as Bike to School Day, has rapidly grown with 40 schools in 2012, to 53 in 2013, jumping to 67 this year.

What was the inspiration for this event?

The San Francisco Bike and Roll to School Week promotes biking as an everyday transportation option for ages 8-80, builds community, and shows the health benefits of active transportation. Participating parents realize that “it’s not that far, and not that scary,” which opens up the possibility of biking with their kids to school and then riding off to work. The Coalition has heard this anecdotally from many parents — a true sign of success.

What results has the program achieved?

We count parked bikes before and after the event to see if there has been a change in the number of kids biking. About a third of the schools report an increase in students biking. Surveys have reported that the number of Bike to School trips increased from 1.3 percent in 2012-13, to 2.3 percent in 2013-14, a 76 percent surge! This translates to almost 300 more students biking to school at least occasionally.

Did any new opportunities arise out of this program?

Organizers at school sites recruited volunteers and trained parents how to ride with kids on the street and form Bike Trains to ride together to and from school. Program leaders have also connected with biking advocates from all over the City. In addition, the event provides the opportunity to introduce the SRTS program to new schools, and helps with the planned expansion of the SRTS program.

For others who may want to implement a similar program, what advice or resources can you give?

Check out the San Francisco Safe Routes to School website! The website features resources for outreach, education, activities, and more. Other resources include Spare the Air Youth and the National Center for Safe Routes to School websites.

It is great to have the support of neighborhood businesses to hang posters, donate coffee for parents, or provide additional prizes for students who bike. Bike shops are another great asset; several bike shops in San Francisco partner with schools to pump up tires or act as the starting point for the ride to school.

Walk and Roll to School Day is October 8, 2014, a great opportunity to walk to school, or roll in any way from bike to scooter to jogging stroller. Free resources are available online for any school from pre-K to high school. Last year 76 schools in San Francisco participated and we're hoping to break that record. Join us!