Persuasive Pedaling: Why You Should Cycle to School

If you go to CB, you have passed the bike rack. Maybe you’ve never noticed it, but it’s been there, albeit a little empty. It has probably slipped your mind. Something you’ve seen before but never taken note of.  Let me be the one to tell you to take note.  Biking to school is a […]

If you go to CB, you have passed the bike rack. Maybe you’ve never noticed it, but it’s been there, albeit a little empty. It has probably slipped your mind. Something you’ve seen before but never taken note of. 

Let me be the one to tell you to take note. 

Biking to school is a noble endeavor. With health and environmental benefits, the advantages are numerous, but many still consider it much easier and more enjoyable to take a car. Busy streets coupled with physical activity and a touch of helmet hair doesn’t necessarily sound appealing. Regardless, biking to school is certainly something to keep in mind. 

I consulted avid biker and social studies instructor Mr. Dave Desmond ‘94 to help me understand why this morning commute works for him. “It makes me feel good. I’m ready for the day,” he states simply. 

Having lived in Los Angeles, Mr. Desmond suffered daily with bumper to bumper traffic. He describes it in one word: brutal. With distaste, he details that he “spent a lot of my life in the car, and I didn’t like that.” So when he moved to Sacramento and took up a job at CB, he vowed to do it differently. By living close to CB, he could change his vehicle of choice and start his mornings without the feeling of confinement he experienced before. 

And Mr. Desmond still really enjoys biking. Despite the activity giving him a burst of positivity to go about his day, he explains other interesting benefits. “I get to see all the different neighborhoods and the changes,” he notes. Additionally, he keeps up to date with NPR and sports radio while he pedals away. 

Biking also comes with some unexpected negatives. In reference to Oak Park, Mr. Desmond shows concern about the narrowness of the streets because cars are pretty scary when you’re basically unprotected. He also mentions that occasionally dogs that aren’t properly locked away will try to follow him. “I’ve been chased a few times,” he says calmly. 

However, to combat the dangers, Mr. Desmond suggests that bikers always plan out their route ahead of time and wear the proper safety equipment. Absolutely no skipping on the helmet. 

Once the requirements are met, he’s an advocate for biking to school. He even tells me about the full bike rack back when he was a student at CB. Side note. If you bike to school and you are not a Romani, go let Mr. Desmond know because he’s on a quest to find who that one other biker is. 

Next on the list was Alicia Romani (‘23), whom I’ve spotted pulling up on her sweet ride. She explains that biking works pretty well for her. Her family tends to ride their bikes as a mode of transportation, and she lives really close to school. Plus, she doesn’t have to wait for the parking lot to clear up after school. “I like that I get out really fast,” she observes. 

She also has advice for people who try to bike. “Someone should know that you’re biking at that time.” Alicia’s biggest danger is the drop off etiquette at CB. “People aren’t looking for a bike rider, and they pull over to let their kid off in front of the school and don’t see me.” So as a driver, stay cautious, and always check before you move into the bike lane. “I’m still alive,” Alicia jokes. The dangers of biking really aren’t too different from what the driver of a car puts themself at risk for. 

Alicia knows we’re not a neighborhood school so not everyone lives in the area surrounding campus. “But if you live close enough, it could be a great way to get to school,” she expresses. 

Now at this point, you can call me out. Hypocrite! I don’t bike to school, so how do I have authority to tell you it’s a good idea? There was only one way to make this article credible. I had to try it for myself. 

Look, I know how to bike. Does that make me a good biker? No. Strong no.

But there’s only one way to get better and that’s to do, so on May 12, 2023, right after completing all of my AP tests, I woke up early, got ready, and hopped on my bike. 

My beautiful little bike

The ride started nicely. The roads were pleasantly empty besides trash cans because I chose trash day, the day that reduces my tiny little lane to about half its size. I was enjoying the heart pumping thrill of the wind in my hair (and helmet). Then, the route guidance told me to turn left onto 39th St.

Boom. There it was. The Sacred Heart Elementary School drop off line at the peak time. There was nothing for me to do but get off my bike and walk it on the sidewalk for a good long stretch. 

Finally, I found an opening and weaved my way back into the street traffic, and for a while, I was cruising with the first enemy defeated.

But nothing good ever lasts. Boom. The bike lane disappeared. On a decently busy street with only one narrow lane for traffic in each direction, I was suddenly competing with the cars that had once been my companions for space on the road. Faster and faster I pedaled until I could see in the distance, the reemergence of my safe habitat, that little region of the road I could call my own. 

Again, it was smooth sailing. Even on Broadway, where there’s no bike lane, the streets were wide enough to give me a good berth. Yes, there was the occasional roadkill, mostly squirrels, some unidentifiable as squirrels, and it is way more noticeable on a bike. But did it bother me? Maybe a little bit, but it wasn’t too bad. 

At this point, the end was in sight, and let me tell you, it was a glorious moment to jump off that steel frame, take off my helmet, and marvel at my accomplishment. Whether it was endorphins or the fact that my school day was mostly parties, I felt ready for what was to come. Nothing could tear me down from the heights I had ascended. 

Math teacher Ms. Kelly Safford’s praise only strengthened my confidence. After all, riding a bike when you can is an environmentalist mantra. I was also met with astonishment from my peers, mostly in the form of “You didn’t die?” and “Why would you do that?” No, I didn’t die, I thrived, and I got to personally experience why biking is so fulfilling. 

Now, I don’t think biking to school is the best option for me mostly because I live a little bit too far away for the transition from car to bike to be comfortable. However, I will be using my bike for short distances a lot more than I have. It’s a great way to get around without the guilt of wasted gas. And I would definitely advocate for people trying to bike to school. For me, it was a rewarding endeavor. And it might be for you too.

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