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Arlington Public Schools & Cycling

Arlington's schools already teach our students about safe cycling. But there's an opportunity to do so much more.

Arlington’s cycling advocates frequently focus on things like infrastructure, bike sharing and enforcement. To be sure, these are all important parts of the larger picture, and deserve attention. But so do future cyclists, and there’s no better place to focus on them than in our schools.

Right now, Arlington Public Schools provides a unit of cycling safety instruction through physical education classes at the high school level. The curriculum is part of a statewide effort called Bike Smart, and is taught by PE teachers who have attended a 12-hour training on cycling instruction.

Getting every APS student into a Bike Smart class is a solid start. But there’s so much more the school system could gain from cycling. 

First, on the matter of cycling instruction, we need not wait until high school to help instill safe cycling practices. To be fair, there are also some pilot programs extending into Arlington's middle and elementary schools. But a formal curriculum at the elementary level – available to all students – would contribute to building safe and healthy habits early on.

This, of course, would cost money — training the trainers, bikes for instruction, and storage space all add up. So it’s a good thing that cycling could also help reduce costs for APS.

As Arlington’s school age population explodes – it’s currently 22,000 and spiraling — so will the school system's transportation needs. Biking and walking? Cheaper than busing.

While busing will undeniably remain central to school transportation planning, APS could take advantage of Arlington’s compact geography and cycling’s distance-shrinking nature to enlarge the walk-zones around our middle and high schools. With more students walking and biking, there would be less pressure on the bus fleet budget.

The benefits of better integrating cycling into APS curriculum and transportation planning will travel well beyond the school grounds. Safe and confident student cyclists don’t need to rely on parents or teen drivers to get them to after-school activities or jobs.   

Finally, the allure of the driver’s license will continue to hold sway over a large portion of 16-year-olds, and there’s really no fighting that. But the early discovery that you don’t always need a car to get around and do the things you want to do? That’s a valuable life-long lesson.

And Arlington Public Schools can help deliver it.

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Has everyone noticed the Capital Bikeshare stations filling up the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor lately? Looks like that long-promised spring build-out is finally happening.

Also: Don't forget the Phoenix Bikes fundraiser bike show takes place this Thursday night in Crystal City. Get your tickets here.

Mark Blacknell is chairman of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, president of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and a League Cycling Instructor.

Mark Blacknell April 26, 2012 at 09:01 PM
CD/Janet/CSG/Jim - I'd normally ignore you, but I want to correct one of the things you've got wrong - Capital Bikeshare is *not* a for-profit corporation. It's a cooperative public venture between DC and Arlington, who have hired Atla Bicycle Share to operate the system for them. Also, you might have missed it, but there were 40+ racks that were recently installed on public property in Arlington. Go for a ride some time, and you might see one! Finally, I'd like to encourage you (again) to direct some of that considerable energy towards informed criticism, instead of repeated (and disingenuous) harping on the same thing, over and over.
Janet April 26, 2012 at 09:43 PM
I'm. Janet. No one else. What Planet are you on Mark, that you don't see and demand that Arlington fix Arlington's crumbling streets before you encourage any more Arlington residents to bicycle over them. Perhaps Planet Garvey, Libby is only too happy to have you become an organ donor while ignoring the crumbling streets she wants you to bicycle over in her own neighborhood. Finally, 'outing' people is an AOL TOS violation, last I heard, Jason.
Janet April 26, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Is Alta Bicycle Share a for-profit corporation? Your silence regarding Arlington's crumbling streets that you are telling bicyclists to ride over is despicable, Mark.
A.B. April 27, 2012 at 10:39 AM
Janet, they're another Gimme Group. The County Board is only to happy to further their agenda with tax dollars in return for votes.
Barry April 27, 2012 at 11:24 AM
Seen how deep and long some of the cracks in the streets are? Almost as bad for bicyclists as streetcar tracks.

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