2017-05-18 / Front Page

PEDALER’S PARADISE

STUDENTS HIT THE ROAD FOR NATIONAL BIKE TO SCHOOL DAY
BY RYAN GIBBS


TOP: Students depart East Ferry on their bicycles en route to their classrooms during last week’s National Bike to School Day. Police officer Joel Pinocci led the procession. TOP: Students depart East Ferry on their bicycles en route to their classrooms during last week’s National Bike to School Day. Police officer Joel Pinocci led the procession. Commuters are girding themselves for traffic delays while the Newport Pell Bridge undergoes repairs, but what happened last Wednesday on Narragansett Avenue had to do with bikes not bridges.

On May 10’s National Bike to School Day, dozens of students pedaled to class from points all around the island. Chaperoned by police officers, teachers and parents, children in town have been observing the holiday for more than decade, although the nationwide trend didn’t commence until 2012.

Although the national Walk & Bike to School organization offers the single holiday, Jamestown schools give students four sponsored days each year to arrive on two wheels opposed to foot, car or bus — two in the fall and two in the spring. The final chance of the 2016-17 school year is June 7.


ABOVE: Devon Piret, Sophia Khan and Aaliyah Khan, left to right, leave the schoolyard on their bicycles following the final bell. ABOVE: Devon Piret, Sophia Khan and Aaliyah Khan, left to right, leave the schoolyard on their bicycles following the final bell. Although handfuls of children ride their bicycles to school on a daily basis, Lawn School principal Nate Edmunds likes the sponsored days because they encourage students who live outside of the village to ride their bikes into town.

“It promotes a healthy lifestyle,” he said.

According to Edmunds, about 10 percent of his school’s 200-student enrollment pedal to Lawn Avenue on any given day. On National Bike to School Day, that number doubled, he said.

At Melrose School, principal Carrie Petersen said the elementary students also took advantage.

“There’s more research showing that a little exercise before school makes kids more alert and better at performing tasks that require concentration,” she said.


BELOW: Judah Starr, 4, takes a break while climbing Narragansett Avenue. 
PHOTOS BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN BELOW: Judah Starr, 4, takes a break while climbing Narragansett Avenue. PHOTOS BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN The first to arrive last week were those who live nearby, including sixth-grader Henry Collins.

“I usually do it more when it’s nicer out,” he said. “It’s fun and it’s great exercise.”

Twins Zach and Aiden Hageman, who attend fifth grade, arrived for their first time aboard bicycles.

“I thought it would be fun to ride our bikes to school for a change, because we never have,” Zach said.

Their fifth-grade classmate, Sara Koch, made no change to her regular itinerary. She almost always rides her bike to school.

“Our house isn’t that far away, and I like getting in the fresh air,” she said. “It’s really good so that kids can all have a chance to ride their bike. It’s really fun, so they can all get some exercise.”

Most of the students who live outside the village met up and rode in groups. The first met at East Ferry and rode up Narragansett Avenue while the other came down North Road from the Jamestown Shores neighborhood.

Police Chief Edward Mello has ridden with one of the two groups for the past three years. This year, he rode from the north end accompanied by a police cruiser. The group made occasional stops on the side of the road in order for cars to pass.

“It’s clearly not a great place to ride your bike, so we just make sure everybody is safe,” he said. “It was a great trip. The kids did great and they had fun.”

Also joining that contingency were technology director Samira Hakki and Meg Myles, director of the Conanicut Island Yacht Foundation and co-founder the Jamestown Bike Club. They have been riding with students the past several years. Hakki said the ride went well, but students wished for a bike lane along the dangerous 40-mph road.

If there was a bike path, several students told her they’d ride their bike to school every day, Hakki said.

The impetus for the bike club began when Myles would ride with her daughter to school from their home on Felucca Avenue. She described the route as “treacherous.” Along with safely chaperoning students, the ride raised awareness for a bike path from the neighbors north of Route 138.

“There are tons of kids in the shores,” she said. “They’re cut off from getting into town or school. I think if they had a way, they would use it every day.”

Sixth-grader Max Petrillo said his parents do not ordinarily allow him to ride his bike to school, but with Mello and a cruiser nearby, they had no problem giving their permission.

“When I have the option, I definitely want to,” he said. “It’s fun and it helps me stay in shape.”

National Bike to School Day is a spin-off of Walk & Bike to School Day, which began in 1997. According to its website, more than 2,800 schools across the country participate annually.

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