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More NYC Teens are Biking to School

Biking is cheap. Biking is fast. Biking promotes independence and exploration. Biking is great exercise. And, biking sure is FUN! What better way for New York City's teens to navigate the city and get themselves to school?

This generation is politically active and solutions-oriented. The last few weeks, we've been interviewing students - some in Queens, some in Manhattan on the Hudson River Greenway, some biking across Central Park. All of them joyful and appreciative of the time away from screens, feeling the wind in their hair and connecting with nature and those around them.

One notable incentive for these students? Schools that provide indoor, secure bike parking (here's looking at you school administrators!). Our goal is for each and every teen to have the option to safely bike, walk, scoot to school. That means we need a connected, protected, low-stress bike lane network in each and every neighborhood in this city. The city's future depends on it - quite literally.

StreetFilms
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In the U.S. Walking & Biking to School is Becoming Extinct, Get Inspired by some Streetfilms to Change That

Last year, we debuted a crisply-edited Streetfilm "Children Have Lost the Freedom to Roam" as a chapter in our STREETFACTS series. We were surprised the 4-part educational series didn't do better. However, the last week saw renewed interest as people started forwarding it around Facebook, nearly 100 shares! Perhaps the general public is beginning to crave change?

Things sure have changed in most parts of the country since I was a kid. I'm now 47. I walked over 2 miles each way to school - in rain and snow (and I was also a morning paperboy for the Times-Hearld Record in Goshen, NY!) In many parts of our country, the built-environment has made it nearly impossible for kids to walk and bike. And as we all know in some places it is illegal or forbidden by the school district.

That's really depressing, sure. But at Streetfilms we've been lucky to be around cities trying to do it right here in America. Our recent hit from Lakewood, Ohio a Cleveland school district that has never provided buses for its students, just soared to nearly 60,000 plays! In Lakewood you can sense the atmosphere is much different than a typical school morning. The kids and parents seem happy, The energy level is infectious.

Last year we got to visit Portland, Oregon where thanks to much traffic calming and slow streets of the Neighborhood Greenways, children are walking and biking in growing numbers. It's encouraging. It's a very fun film. Especially the Bike Trains!

There are many videos to get inspired by via Streetfilms. In Brooklyn, PS 67 students painted the pavement to make streets near their school safer. In Davis, California the bike mode share is high, and most of the school districts there don't have buses either.

But in the U.S. we have so much further to go. See above, for this short video from the Dutch city of Utrecht, where children learn about transportation at an early age. And if you watch our 2010 Streetfilm from Copenhagen, you'll see plenty of young children riding bikes, and hear about how the learn how at a very early age to navigate the streets.

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Then there is this clip last year from an Amsterdam trip that shows what we are looking to attain is humanly possible. Yes this kid is four years old! I couldn't ride that well as a teenager!

But don't get depressed too much by this stellar work beyond done overseas. There are many communities and advocacy groups out there pushing to make our streets better. Use these videos as your inspiration and don't wait any longer. And also, our Zozo series can help spread the word!

StreetFilms
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In Portland, Every Day Is Walk and Bike to School Day

In many areas of the country the statistics are bleak -- only a small fraction of children bike or walk to school. But Portland, Oregon has bucked the trend: The number of kids using their feet to get to school is up 25 percent since 2006!

Portland makes it happen through a unique blend of infrastructure, planning, and outreach. They have a growing network of low-traffic neighborhood greenways. By 2015, 80 percent of all Portland residents will be within a half mile of one. Communities also frequently schedule "bike trains" and "walking school buses" to encourage kids and their families to bike or walk to school. One of the more incredible parts of these programs: Fifth grade student volunteers trained by the Portland police help younger students cross the street to get to school in the morning. That's right, NYC, no crossing guards on corner after corner.

Last month, Streetfilms got to bike to school along with the family of new Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat. We also got to walk with Kristen and Dan Kaufman (of PDXK-TV) and their kids. Although the United States has a long way to go to make walking and biking to school the norm again, get motivated -- because if Portland can do it, your city can too.