Start a Bike to School program

What is Bike to School Month? 

In 1956 the League of American Bicyclists sponsored the first established National Bike Month, with a special week dedicated for riding to work. The kid-friendly version is Bike to School Month, where students are encouraged to celebrate cycling, healthy habits and a cleaner environment. Through exploring the joy of riding students have the chance to connect with community members, lower their carbon footprint, build habits for a healthy lifestyle and have fun! 

Bike to School Month has been running strong for years. Last year more than 3,200 elementary, middle and high school students from 65 schools in six school districts participated in Bike to School Month! They logged more than 628,000 minutes on their bikes! Let’s keep the momentum going in 2017!

Don’t forget, 2017 Bike to School Day is Wednesday, May 10!

How it works

Cascade hosts friendly Bike to School competitions for elementary, middle and high school students who can track commute minutes or miles and earn prizes for their efforts. Elementary students track their biked minutes using a specially designed Bike to School tracking calendar. Middle and high school students participate through registering online at Cascade's Bike to School Challenge webpage. Middle and high school students will keep track of their daily hours on their own and report their total number of minutes ridden at the end of the month on Cascade's website. Visit our specialized pages for each age group to find out more.

We understand that many young children are not prepared to ride on the street alone. Most elementary school children ride with their parents or another adult. We envision participation in Bike-to-School Month as a family project, one that may also introduce parents and guardians to the fun of cycling with their kids, or route planning with their teens.

Each school needs a designated Bike to School Coordinator to oversee their school’s participation in the challenge. Coordinators can be parents, teachers, or community members. Schools are registered in the Bike to School challenge by contacting Cascade Youth Programs Coordinator Ryan Young at [email protected].

We encourage you to celebrate Bike to School Month, and Bike to School Day at your school(s). Learn more about getting your program up and running:

Getting started

You can play a major role in getting kids excited about biking to school. We’ve created a list of resources and documents as well as a sample timeline to help you plan activities for Bike Month in your school. Feel free to contact us with questions you may have about getting started — we’re here to help!

  1. Find your allies: Bring your Bike to School proposal to the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or MIT, teachers, school administration or other school groups to find people who are willing to support and join your efforts. Find the one person at your school who can help you make things happen and move the conversation forward. This may be the P.E. teacher, the principal, or a teacher who bikes.
     
  2. Rally volunteers: Sign up a group of volunteers who can commit to tasks. Parents, neighbors, community leaders and teachers can all play a role in Bike to School Month.
     
  3. Connect with Cascade: Reach out to the Cascade Education team to network with other allies in your community. The team will direct you to additional resources and have key updates on Bike to School Month.
     
  4. Do not underestimate the power of one committed person! YOU can change an entire culture!
     
  5. Funding the fun: Funding can play a key role in the success of your Bike to School Month. Funding can provide low-cost helmets to students who need them, purchase prizes and other incentives, or even cover the costs of a ‘sponsored’ morning ride and breakfast (like donuts)!

Inside funding: Your PTA/MIT may have funding available to support your event. Many PTA/MIT budgets are negotiated in the Spring for the following year, so start those conversations early. Consider joining your PTA/MIT or PTA/MIT board to influence how funds at your school are spent. Create a Health & Wellness committee and propose it as a standing committee on the PTA/MIT.

Outside funding: Consider asking local businesses for donations of healthy snacks, prizes, etc. Ask several weeks or even months ahead of your event(s). Each business has their own timeline for processing donation requests. Seek out the support of potential local allies such as bike shops, community centers, etc.

Site logistics

Determine the scope of your program: Will your school host a one-time event on Bike to School Day, or a series of activities or morning welcome tables throughout the month?

Know when, where and for how long your event(s) will occur: Print out a map of your school’s location and plan where your activities will take place. Keep in mind safety and increased bike/pedestrian traffic, accessibility and proximity to restrooms (if the event is more than a couple hours).

Bike parking: Where can students park their bikes and lock them up? Is additional signage or communication required to let students know where they are allowed to park? Are additional bike locks needed? Tip: Having volunteers direct bike traffic on the school grounds is helpful.

Understand local laws and school policies: Work closely with the school or district’s administrative staff to identify any particular risk management issues. Reach out to local law enforcement to keep them informed about your planning. If your area has a helmet law, make sure that parents are aware of it. Make sure that you are following any applicable school policies such as parental permission slips, waivers, etc. School administrators and PTA/MITs always want to know about events that are being organized for their school. Be proactive in having these conversations — the earlier they know, the better! Have kids walk their bikes on school grounds and remind them about pedestrian rights when riding on the sidewalk.

Involve and inform families who are ultimately responsible for deciding how kids get to school. They should determine the child’s readiness and best route for biking and walking to school. Let parents know of the locations of signalized or marked crossings and locations with crossing guards.

Spread the word

There are lots of ways to spread the news about Bike to School month at your school. Everyone from families to principals can be involved. Listed below are ideas to get you started:

  • Promotional Posters: Display colorful signs around your school promoting your Bike to School activities and/or the posters provide by Cascade.
  • Publications: Send an announcement about Bike to School Month to your PTA/MIT, school newsletter, website, local blog, newspaper, e-newsletters or email blast to families at school. Write print-ready content as it is more likely to be published. Prepare special social-networking ready materials for Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Fanfare: Invite a local sports figure, public representative, or community leader to your school to talk about the importance of healthy habits and an active lifestyle at an all-school assembly.
  • Intercom announcements: Ask the principal or a student leader to announce Bike to School activities over the intercom.
  • Involve students: Get students onboard by involving the student council, environmental club or another student club in organizing and advertising Bike to School month.
  • Set up a table during lunch breaks to educate students on the program and invite them to register.
  • Present the idea at your school’s curriculum night (usually early in the school year).

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Bike to School Kit

Cascade’s Bike to School kit contents aim to support schools in getting started, registered, and promoted. Bike to School kits are available in early April and include:

  • Bike to School Month banner w/ zip ties
  • Bike to School Month promotional poster/s
  • Bike to School Challenge postcards (to be used as promotional materials for middle and high school students)
  • Bike to School Tracking Calendar master copy
  • A set of small prizes to distribute on Bike to School Day (Wednesday, May 10th)
  • Clif Kid bars, fruit twists, or other healthy snack from our sponsors
  • Helmet fit brochures
  • Seattle Bike Map
  • Cascade Summer Camps brochures and poster
  • Cascade’s Pedal Washington quarterly magazine

**Many of the resources available on our website (such as bike rodeo and bike train information) is also available in hardcopy to add to your kit. 

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Student & community engagement

Whether you are creating a onetime event for Bike to School month or a series of events, below are some ideas for engaging students, families, and community members throughout the month.

  • Get students involved! Provide a drop-box for Bike to School Month event ideas; hold a meeting with student leaders to generate ideas and leadership opportunities; encourage on-campus clubs to create teams to participate in the challenge!
  • Set up a ‘Meet and Eat’ station for students who arrive by bike in the mornings. Offer stickers, hand stamps or healthy snacks to students (i.e. carrot sticks, grapes, granola bars, apple slices, oranges, bananas). Keep it quick and easy.
  • Create a biking cheer squad. Gather volunteers and/or the school mascot to greet and cheer students on as they arrive to school.
  • Offer route suggestions to families. Provide an online link for families with suggested walking or biking routes. Encourage students to plan a bike route to school with their families. (If students are unable to bike to school, encourage them to bike on the weekends.)
  • Enlist our help! Hire Cascade to host a 30-minute interactive bicycle safety assembly for elementary students.
  • Start a Bike Train! Travel safely as a pack. Learn more here.
  • Host an after-school helmet fitting clinic for parents and students one week before the event. Cascade can provide you with low-cost helmets for resale. Email Ryan at [email protected] for more information.
  • Host a bike decorating station with streamers, pipe cleaners, stickers and other supplies. Helmet decorating stations are also fantastic!
  • Make it fun! Host friendly competitions between classes and celebrate the class with the most riders at an all school assembly.
  • Get the whole school on board! Track total minutes biked as a school, including teachers, principals and volunteers! (You can use these stats later for a summary report if needed.)
  • Get teachers involved. Help teachers organize an all-teacher bike train that kids and parents can join on Bike to School Day or end-of-the-month celebration.

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Getting prepared — sample timeline

September: Present your ideas to the school PTA/MIT and find your allies. Ask the principal if they can be involved in Bike to School month in any way. Select a date for a Bike to School assembly, and get it on the school calendar early. Reach out to Cascade education staff early to get extra details and support.

October: Determine the scope of your Bike to School program, coordinate logistics and find out what additional resources you may need. Search for grants and potential donors. Many businesses prefer to be contacted for donation requests several weeks or months in advance. Resources to request include food, prizes, financial support for helmet purchases, and other incentives.

November: Keep in touch with volunteers. Consider hosting a fundraiser for Bike to School Month if you are still in need of more financial resources. Continue to assess the needs of your school and students regarding bicycles, helmets, and other accommodations.

February: Remind parents and kids that Bike to School Month is coming up in May. Send out a second call for volunteers if needed.

March: Finalize logistics with the school, principal, teachers, families and community members. Send a reminder email to volunteers with event details and tasks. Start thinking about next year and request a budget line from your PTA. If helmets are needed at your school, place a low-cost helmet purchase order with Cascade.

April: Spread the word about your event to local news outlets including your parent newsletter, local blog and school calendar. Get kids registered! Register your school’s program at walkbiketoschool.org as it is an important national tracker for the national bike to school movement in addition to registering with Cascade. Host a bike rodeo (bike skills/obstacle course) on your school playground.

May: Bike to School Month!

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Bike to School Month programming example

April 28: Kick off assembly. Introduce students to program and encourage sign-ups.
April 30: Host a Bike Rodeo (include: helmet giveaways, bike repair and tune-ups)
May 1: Continue to recruit and register students. Promote at pre-existing school and community events.
May 10: Bike to School Day!!! Music, balloons, live raffle (with donated prizes), healthy snacks, stickers from Cascade, and bike trains with encouraging signs along the route.
May 15: Morning ‘Meet and Eat’ table with healthy snacks, stickers, prizes, and photo booth.
May 22: Host a ‘Tour de Donut’. Offer each student riding to school a donut for their efforts!
May 26: Bike Fairy Friday. Have the ‘bike fairy’ visit bicycles parked at school and leave stickers, or other prizes for the riders upon their return.
May 31: Closing ceremony celebrating the successes of the school. Share numbers, cool stories, and great photos.

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Local resources

Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT)
  • Mini-grants available for up to $1,000 for use in promoting and making walking and biking safer in school communities. Visit their website for more information, example applications, reports, and grant-cycle periods. Mini-grants are available to any public or private K-12 school within the City of Seattle, PTAs, and other nonprofit groups that work with schools within the City limits.
  • Encouragement incentives available such as stickers, temporary tattoos, wrist bands, etc. This encouragement program is part of the city’s Five-year Safe Routes to School Action Plan.
Department of Neighborhoods (DON)
  • Neighborhood Park and Street Fund - DON provides grants of various sizes, up to $90,000, for neighborhood specific projects including efforts to encourage walking or biking. Perspective projects should emphasize community driven leadership and volunteer support and involvement.
  • Neighborhood Matching Fund – Provides matching dollars for neighborhood improvement, organizing efforts, or projects developed and implemented by community members. 
    • Small Sparks Fund — up to $1,000
    • Small and Simple Projects Fund — up to $25,000
    • Large Project Fund — up to $100,000
OSPI Bike and Pedestrian Safety Education Program
Safe Routes to School

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