Asheville - Some students in Western North Carolina are literally biking uphill, both ways, to and from school. As kids across the state prepare to take part in national Bike to School Day May 6, teachers admit living in the mountains means a few more curves, and hills.
"We have some climbs. It can be a challenge, but we've overcome it," says Lauren Dotson, assistant principal at Hardin Park Elementary in Boone. Her school will launch its event in a bank parking lot, less than a half a mile away. Along the route, Boone Police and volunteer cyclists will help keep the students safe. "This day gives kids who normally couldn't ride their bikes all the way to school a chance to get active and be part of the experience, too", says Dotson. Nearly 100 Hardin Park students participated in a similar event last year.
"Kids and parents are increasingly seeking options such as walking and biking to school," says NCDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Division Director Lauren Blackburn. "Mountainous areas make for steeper terrain but that is not a deterrent to cycling or physical activity for most children. Planning and public education are important to improving safety and infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians of all ages. Bike to School Day is a great way for friends and families to celebrate cycling." Jesse Swain, a physical education teacher at Asheville's Claxton Elementary, agrees. "We do have kids using our bike racks every day, but since we're a magnet school and many kids live too far away, a lot of students who want to bike can't." On Bike to School Day, Claxton students have the option of two gathering spots, each about three-fourths of a mile away, where Swain and other staff members will join them. He hopes the ride encourages students to seek out cycling spots in area parks and greenways to boost their pedal power after school and weekends. When families can ride together, NCDOT is encouraging them to bring their cameras.
The Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation is having a cycling photo contest, looking for snapshots that capture the best of cycling from the mountains to the coast. Pictures can earn riders prizes including jerseys, lights, reflective arm bands, and other safety gear. Submit photos through May 29 from the link on the Bicycle and Pedestrian Division page of www.ncdot.gov.For a calendar of cycling events and safe cycling information, visit www.walkbikenc.com.