On Monday, 1,183 students biked to five Northeast Ohio schools for the kick-off of Bike to School Challenge, a program that encourages students to bike to school for three weeks each May to help the environment, improve personal health, increase physical activity, win prizes and of course have fun.
Bike to School Challenge, which is sponsored in part by Raleigh Bicycles, is one of the largest youth bicycling events in the U.S. Participation in this year’s Day 1 ride was up 33 percent from last year, making it the highest Day 1 bike count in the program’s six-year history.
By the end of the month, organizers estimate that more than 4,000 students from these five schools will have ridden 50,000 miles, burned 885,000 calories, and prevented more than 57,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. Each rider is eligible to win daily and grand prizes, including 10 new Raleigh bicycles, scholarships, and other sponsor gifts.
The BTS Challenge is organized by teachers and administrators from each school, staff from Century Cycles, and endorsed by local political officials. With students safety on the roads a top priority, in the BTS Challenge’s five-year history there have been no accidents, thefts, or other issues reported. Cyclists are directed through greatly-reduced car traffic by teachers, and traffic signs are used to alert motorists.
“It is an awe-inspiring sight to see hundreds of bicycles parked in front of these schools. It sends a powerful message about the huge impact youth can have on the community with the simple act of riding a bike,” said Scott Cowan, owner of Century Cycles bicycle, which helps organize and sponsor the challenge. “Everyone involved with the program is just thrilled with the response on the first day and is excited for the coming weeks.”
In Cuyahoga county, Bay Middle School officials counted 544 bikes at their racks, which accounted for 66 percent of the school’s students, and Rocky River Middle School counted 291 bikes, which represented a whopping 47 percent of the school’s students, up 43 percent from 2012.
The numbers told a similar tale in Medina, where Root Middle School counted 148 bicycles (17 percent of the school’s students; up 52 percent over 2012’s Day 1) and Claggett Middle School counted 76 bicycles (8 percent of the school; up 68 percent from 2012).
If past challenges are any indication, ridership will continue to increase in the coming weeks. Organizers expect an especially significant turnout on May 8, which is National Bike To School Day. That final day of the program is the big day for the students. The three-week event culminates with massive assemblies at each school where final results and grand prize winners are announced. To learn more about the great program, visit www.centurycycles.com/to/BTS or follow it on Facebook or on Twitter.