A group of parents and students urged the city school district Board of Education on Thursday to change its 1994 policy that prohibits children from riding their bikes to school.
Several parents of pupils at the Maple Avenue Middle School have accompanied their children on bicycles to the school over the past two weeks as a way of demonstrating that riding a bike to and from school is a healthy alternative to riding in a bus or car.
“What are we teaching our children?” asked Janette Kaddo Marino of Saratoga Springs. She said the district policy discourages “something healthy and fun.”
Kaddo Marino rode to Maple Avenue with her son, Adam, two weeks ago. Her son’s bike was placed in the boiler room until she could come pick it up after school and she was informed of the no-bike policy by school officials.
Kaddo Marino and more than 20 other parents and students attended Thursday’s school board meeting at Saratoga Springs High School to urge the board to change its policy and create a committee to study the implementation of the Safe Routes to School program, which has been successful throughout the United States.
“We should change this policy tonight,” said Jeffrey Olson, the parent of a middle school pupil who rode to school with his daughter earlier this week.
Olson said his firm has planned Safe Routes to School programs across the United States and other countries. He said there is ample federal funding for the programs.
Frank Palumbo, school board president, said the board will reconsider the 1994 school bike policy next month. Walking to most elementary schools in the city and the high school is allowed.
“There will be no decision tonight,” Palumbo told the group. He said the board policy committee will meet June 8 to discuss the issue.
Palumbo said that in Wilton, where he lives, there are no sidewalks. However, the Town Board is considering an off-road bike and pedestrian path along Carr Road and Jones Road so people can get to Gavin Park and the Dorothy Nolan Elementary School safely.
Such pathways and trails are often something that towns or a city does, not the school district, Palumbo said.
At the Shenendehowa Central School District in Clifton Park, the district encourages students to walk or ride their bikes to school, according to Kelly DeFeciani, a district spokeswoman.
The district plans to add more bike and walking trails on its campus off Route 146 that connect to nearby neighborhoods. The town of Clifton Park has also been putting in biking and walking trails that tie into school pathways, DeFeciani said.
Stuart Byrne, Maple Avenue Middle School principal, said the 1994 no-biking policy for his school was made because the school is on state Route 9.
Back then the Route 9 speed limit in front of the school was 45 mph. There also were no traffic controls outside the school when it opened. Since that time, the speed limit on Route 9 near the school has been reduced to 30 mph and there are flashing yellow lights near the school. There are no sidewalks in front of the school.
“We are trying to be careful,” Byrne said. “We are trying to protect everyone.”
Byrne said when the parents and their children rode their bikes to school recently, he had students’ bikes placed in the boiler room until after school. Earlier this week, three parents came back to school on their bikes and got their children and their bikes for the ride home.
These parents did not ride on Route 9 but took a route that included North Broadway and the now-closed old extension of North Broadway that leads down to school property, which is in Greenfield just north of the Saratoga Springs city limits.
Byrne recommended that any parents who do ride with their children to the middle school despite the no-bike policy use this North Broadway route.
Adam Kaddo Marino, a sixth-grader at Maple Avenue, said it was “not that challenging” to ride his bike to school with his mother riding hers.
“Why can’t we ride our bike to school?” Adam asked the school board.
“It’s healthy and better for the environment,” he said.
Palumbo said the district would notify the public when the bike policy might be changed. He also asked parents with information about the Safe Routes to School Program to share it with the school board.
Johanna Garrison of the Saratoga Healthy Transportation Network and others want the district to create a committee to study the Safe Routes to School program.
She urged the board and other local public officials to “come up with a safe, unified infrastructure” that allows for biking and walking to school.
“It’s time to change,” Garrison said.
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