By Julie McCay Turner
Yesterday’s International Walk/Bike to School Day was one of Bedford’s best ever. Adult volunteer chaperones and parents, members of Bedford’s Police Department and parents supported the dozens of walkers and cyclists on their way to BHS, JGMS, Lane and Davis schools.
According to Healthy Bedford coordinator Carla Olson, Bedford has been participating in the Safe Routes to School program since 2009, with the help of a multitude of volunteers and supporters. “We have seen increasing numbers of students and families participating each year,” said Olson. “What is really exciting is to see more and more students walk and bike not only on event days, but throughout the school year. The event days hopefully introduce more families to the many benefits of walking or biking to school including: increasing the physical activity of children (and their parents!), reducing traffic congestion and fuel consumption, and making communities more pedestrian friendly. Also even a little bit of exercise before school has repeatedly shown to increase learning readiness upon arrival.”
Olson also reported outstanding numbers at all schools, but especially among Bedford’s youngest students. More than 100 walkers, 25 bikers and 3 scooter riders made up the Davis School contingent that walked from the Lutheran Church of Our Savior’s parking lot to Davis School.
And among the oldest eligible students, JGMS principal Kevin Tracey has reported “burgeoning numbers, to the point where they require an additional bike rack!” Sixteen bikes were counted in the JGMS racks yesterday.
Bicycle Advisory Committee chair Terry Gleason’s count noted 37 bikes in the bike racks at Job Lane School just after school began. Sixteen cyclists rode to Lane with chaperones from the Bicycle Advisory Committee, while others rode directly from home, accompanied by their parents. Two Job Lane students regularly ride the four miles from West Bedford, using the Reformatory Trail from West Bedford to Depot Park and then following the Narrow Gauge trail to the school.
Gleason also lauded the volunteers who chaperoned the cyclists going to and coming from Lane School: John Premack, Brian O’Donnell, Dave Enos, Laurie Gleason, Diane Zamot, Noel Zamot and Bob Sawyer.
Selectman Margot Fleischman met the 79 Lane School walkers in the parking lot at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. “We had a really enthusiastic group of about 20 walkers,” she said, “including several 3rd graders, for whom this was their first time walking to school. The kids had lots of energy and it was obvious that they were enjoying talking and having fun with their friends while they walked. One hardy 4th grader reminded me that last year, she was the only walker, because it was raining buckets on Walk/Bike to School Day. Today, the weather was picture perfect, and many kids enjoyed picking up pretty fall leaves along the way.”
According to Lane School Principal Rob Ackerman, “Walk or Bike to School Day always has a bit of nostalgia attached,” and that’s one of the reasons he likes it. “[It] captures the idea of community with neighbors walking with neighbors and groups of cyclists riding together,” Ackerman continued, “and I understand the challenges of working families, so I am extra appreciative of the efforts by participants.”
Bedford’s Chief of Police Robert Bongiorno was at Davis School to welcome walkers who traversed the trail leading from the Lutheran Church parking lot. Because he was running late he drove to the school rather than meeting the walkers in the parking lot. “As I exited the car and greeted students, I overheard a young boy ask his mother why I didn’t walk to school like the rest of the group. It brought a smile to my face!” The Chief added that Walk/Bike to School is one of his favorite town events, even if it is celebrated internationally.