The Importance Of Bike to Work Week

At St. George’s School a vast majority of students get dropped off at 8:00 in the morning by parents or guardians. SUV’s and Trucks are constantly passing through St. George’s dropping off one singular student. The School and many other people believe it is a huge waste to drive such a huge vehicle for a 7 minute commute. The School participates in province wide Bike to School/Work week. The bike to school week shows off cyclists coming from all over the city and hopefully with every official bike to school week each year more people will participate. Bike to Work Week took place October 23rd to the 29th of 2017. Participating areas include Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, Surrey, Langley, Tsawwassen and many more. Last year over 37,000 people participated in Bike to work week in British Columbia

These are the statistics for 6 schools in Vancouver British Columbia. As you can see, St. George’s has done quite well compared to other schools. We Had 137 trips logged, with a total distance of 1417.10Km. As a school we burned 42,513 calories in a week. These numbers seem impressive but we really only had 21 riders. Every school would be happy with more frequent riders, and it’s always a challenge to get more people to ride. Dr. Markel was the lead organizer for St. George’s bike to work week, and I organized some questions to ask Dr. Markel about bike to school week. The lead organizers beliefs and wishes for the program are important, so I asked him. His reasons behind supporting the program might be different than what you might think.

“I think that Bike to Work is important in terms of raising people’s awareness to the fact that cycling is a viable transportation option in a city like Vancouver.” He went on explaining why cycling to school is seen as unpopular. “Many non-cyclists view cycling as either too dangerous, requiring a high level of fitness, taking too much time, and so on. Each year, during Bike to Work Week, people give cycling a try and they often find that it is not nearly as difficult as they might have thought.” Dr. Markel had me surprised when he brought up climate change. He thinks biking to work is important considering the ever growing planet temperature. “At this time in history, with climate change upon and the the planet warming at an alarming rate, I believe it is important for staff and teachers to consider and model use of alternate modes of transportation when we can. Cycling, is one of many alternatives.”

After seeing St. George’s data from the bike to work week, I asked Dr. Markel what he thinks the school can do to get more frequent riders. The bike racks at the school and bike pumps help encourage more frequent riders, and it provides a safe space for bicycles to be locked up.  “I think the school is doing a lot of great things to promote cycling and other green forms of transportation. The bike racks at the senior school are well utilized and often full with student and staff bicycles.” The staff also get bicycle accommodations including Showers, Change rooms, and getting a quick breakfast at the cafe. “For staff, we have a lot of amenities to make cycling easier. Change rooms, showers, and breakfast at the cafe are great motivators.” A good way to get more people riding is a reward, and that’s exactly what they did. “ During Bike to Work week we sponsored a “celebration station” on the 29th Avenue bike route and the school is has recently become a  supporter of Hub Cycling, the organization that sponsors bike to work week. Perhaps a student committee could be formed to come up with some ideas that would incentivize students to walk, bike, carpool, or use transit.” Dr. Markel’s student committee idea could really help get more riders out.

At the end of the day, people are going to get to school how they want, but I think the bike to school initiative is going in the right direction to get more frequent riders throughout the year, and is not a fail in any means. No school our size is going to get 100+ riders frequently in this cold and wet Vancouver weather. Even though our numbers look small, bike to work week is not any less important.