Riding to School on Protected Bike Lanes

Do your kids ride to school? Or maybe you're thinking that this year your kids will be starting to ride to school?  We've talked before about what you can do to make sure your kids are ready to ride to school.  But that's only half of the preparation.   You need to know that the route is safe and easy to navigate too and having protected bike lanes along roads on the route to school would be awesome. And not every kid will be able to ride to school - as Damien Enderby points out in his interview with us, "Our eldest is certainly mature and capable of riding to school on her own but the route is too high risk for her to be allowed to. We're not about cotton-wooling our kids but...

As a parent you've always got to weigh up the pros and cons - risks and safety - and every situation is different."

Every year we are hearing of, and beginning to see, better infrastructure around bike lanes on our roads.  But not all bike lanes are made equal - they might allow a dedicated space to ride your bike but having a bike lane nestled between parked cars and moving traffic can be daunting for kids, and adults - the risk of doors opening up and knocking you off your bike, or cars swerving into bike lane to move around other traffic or just simpy not keeping their eyes on the road. And sometimes, bike lanes are there for some of the route, and then they simply stop, leaving the rider no option but to join traffic on a single lane.

So what makes a good bike lane?

One that is safe enough for kids to ride to school in?  An article recently published in the Momentum Mag on What Makes a Bike Lane Great? lists these things:
  • A permanent barrier/curb that might be characterised with cement or plastic planters/pots, not just a white line.
  • Bright green paint
  • A wide lane that allows for more than 1 bike across
  • A lane on each side of the street
  • A lane that does not suddenly stop and the bikes then have to 'share' a road that appears cars have been given full access to
Unfortunately, and reasonably, most new bike lane infrastructure is focused on city commuter routes that undoubtably cater for the highest traffic areas. And you can't argue with that. But does that mean we will be waiting for generations to come for safe bike lanes to be built on our school routes which might be used by only a couple of hundred children each day?

Pop-up bike lanes are giving riders, and the community in general, the chance to experience protected bike lanes

We love this concept that was rolled out in selected cities across America in the summer of 2014 - Pop Up Protected Bike Lanes.  As showcased on the People for Bikes website, "Around the country in the summer of 2014, community groups across the United States have been using open-streets events and other festivals to give thousands of Americans their first taste of a protected bike lane. They have been using handmade barriers and relatively tiny amounts of money to put together temporary bikeways that spread the knowledge of the concept among the public and officials." pop-up-bike-lanes In its annual top 10 list, the People for Bikes organisation compiled its "America's 10 Best New Bike Lanes of 2014" list and coming in at number 1 was Poke Street in San Francisco, California.  It clearly shows some of the key characteristics of a good bike lane: [caption id="attachment_82" align="aligncenter" width="620"]momentum-mag-polk-street-bikelane-photo-dianne-yee Photo via Momentum Mag, via Flickr by Dianne Yee[/caption] Here's an example of a well designed bike lane in Australia: [caption id="attachment_83" align="aligncenter" width="650"]Bike Lane in George Street, Sydney Bike Lane in George Street, Sydney

Riding on the footpath - is that an option?

If there's no protected bike lane and riding on the road is just out of the question, then can kids simply ride on the footpath? Yes, and no. Depending on their age and the state they live in. We've covered this area before and you can read about it here. Not all rules are same across the states in Australia so you should read up about what applies to you where you live.

Ride2School Program - How can you get involved?

The Bicycle Network's Ride2School Program supports thousands of schools across Australia to develop a healthy active travel culture.  You can check out all the resources available here. And get involved on Ride2School day which is happening on Friday March 13, 2015. The purpose of National Ride2School Day is to show school communities that riding to school is an easy and fun activity. It is a chance to celebrate on a large scale and prove it can be done. Have you recently had a bicycle lane created on your school route and do your kids use it?  Let us know - post your images on our Facebook page for others to see the results of better bicycle lane infrastructure for kids.