Students brush up their bicycling skills at Francisco Middle School.
Sustainable school transportation officials and advocates have celebrated the installation of the first new bike racks in the San Francisco Unified School District in many years.
Francisco Middle School, one of eight schools to receive a new rack, played host to the event. Francisco students in the Presidio Community YMCA’s after-school bike program, a partnership with the Municipal Transportation Agency and San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, treated guests to a demonstration of safe bicycling and intersection negotiation.
“We’re all about action here,” said Principal Judith Giampaoli.
6th-grader Juan Carlos Ramirez said the new racks meant he could now bike to school and not have to worry about his bike getting “messed up.” Ramirez likes biking to school because it’s “healthy, I get good exercise, and it’s also fun.”
“There’s no pollution,” added his bike club friend Abdul Moimm, “and you don’t have to worry about things like traffic.” Both students built the bikes they ride, with a little help from instructors in the Presidio Community YMCA’s after-school bike shop class.
The new racks were funded by a $7,500 grant from the Mervyn L. Brenner Foundation, which was secured by the SFBC. Though the number of schools receiving a new bike rack represents just a fraction of the total number of schools in the district, SFUSD officials say the new racks are a key component of a new district policy to promote healthy lifestyles by encouraging more students and faculty to bike to school.
“We encourage our staff and students to be active every day,” says Superintendent Carlos Garcia. “Bike racks provide that option to those students and staff who want to bike to school. School Board Vice President Jane Kim was in attendance to express the Board’s support for the new bike racks.
Currently, fewer than one percent of all students in the SFUSD commute to school by bicycle. But Leah Shahum, Executive Director of the 10,000-member San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said her organization is working closely with the school district on a range of programs and school infrastructure improvements, including more bike racks and a District-wide Bike to School Day, on May 28th, that will begin to turn the tide.
“We’re thrilled the SFUSD will foster the future health of students and teach smart, sustainable transportation,” Shahum said.
Ana Validzic of the Department of Public Health stressed that bicycling to school is good for students’ health, a critical need when 66 percent of all San Francisco students do not meet recommended daily levels of physical activity. DPH secured a two-year, $500,000 Safe Routes to School grant that is scheduled to begin this September.
“The purpose of this grant is to promote walking and biking to and from school as well as improve traffic safety around the schools,” she said. The grant will deliver educational presentations, fun activities, and traffic enforcement at 15 schools within the SFUSD.