Not Allowed to Ride to School?

Many of us around here are big fans of encouraging school-age children (and their parents) to ride bicycles to school…it gives kids much-needed exercise and helps teach them that it IS possible to live car-lite. Besides, riding a bike to avoid gridlock around the school is a fantastic way to start and end the day.

And, with the incidences of diabetes and childhood obesity running rampant through the U.S. population, finding a way to use muscles instead of gasoline makes a lot of sense from a health perspective. So, it’s always troubling to hear when kids are thwarted in their attempts to do something positive for themselves and their environment…when school officials don’t allow children to ride bikes to school, we’re ALL in trouble. Here’s an example from last month, an incident in Saratoga, New York:

School officials in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., reprimanded a mother and her 12-year-old son for riding their bicycles to school on national Bike to Work day and confiscated the boy’s bike, according to a story in The Saratogian.

Janette Kaddo Marino and her son, Adam, 12, pedaled the seven miles from their home to Maple Avenue Middle School.

“After they arrived, mother and son were approached first by school security and then school administrators, who informed Marino that students are not permitted to ride their bikes to school,” the story said. “School officials took her son’s bike and stored it in the boiler room. They told her she would have to return with a car to retrieve the bike later in the day.”

Read the full story at Seattle PI by clicking here.

And, strangely enough, this isn’t a U.S.-only phenomenon. In fact, a very similar incident occured in Portsmouth, UK a week later:

A Portsmouth youngster has lost his year-long campaign to be allowed to cycle to school. Sam O’Shea, 11, has been told that the road outside St Paul’s Catholic Primary School is not safe enough to use.

Authorities are sticking by their October 2008 decision – despite the fact that Sam and his family persuaded the city council to bring forward a planned redesign of the road layout. They also arranged for a professional risk assessment, which found that the street was safe for children to cycle on.

The full article can be found on Bike Radar by clicking here.

Troubling times, indeed. A tip of the foam hat to our friend Shek for bringing these two articles to our attention.

If any of you have had similar run-ins, please let us know about them in the comments.


  1. Rantwick August 1, 2009 8:44 pm 

    That has got to be some of the most stupid and bothersome stuff I’ve read in a while… ARG! Troubling times indeed.

  2. jgodsey August 1, 2009 9:11 pm 

    I have run into the same thing locally, especially when he feds were selling the Safe Routes to Schools program last year. The schools will not allow bike racks nor cycling to school, citing liability issues.

  3. Twitted by jpitkin August 2, 2009 5:43 am 

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  4. Andy August 2, 2009 6:56 am 

    I don’t understand how that works. If the school is public property, how can they tell you not to bike there? These must be private schools I guess.

    If it were me, I would just ride to school and park at the next closest place and walk the last bit. Nothing they can do about that.

  5. Animal August 2, 2009 7:22 am 

    My mom got a phone call from the teacher because I rode my bike though the muddy park on the way to elementary school, she insisted my mom bring clean clothes to school right away on the phone. My mom said to the teacher that everything was normal and hung up.

    This is crazy, I began riding my bike to school in first grade in Cupertino Northern California very bike friendly. I moved to Southern California in third grade and continued until I joined Surf team in high school. I would rather ride my bike in the rain then ride on a school bus.

  6. Ghost Rider August 2, 2009 8:09 am 

    Andy, the first one is a public school in Saratoga, NY — not private. The other one is.

    At my local public school (where I bring my child by bike every day), I had a similar run-in…the principal tried to give me a “this is private property…the outside rules don’t apply” spiel. Ha, that smelled like BS the minute she said it…especially because MY tax dollars help pay for that school.

    Well, I set her straight with a carefully crafted letter pointing out both state/municipal vehicle codes AND the school board’s own policy about biking to school.

    I’m afraid that a lot of these incidents are from plain ignorance on the part of school officials — since they would never consider cycling anywhere on the city roads, then it must be dangerous for the kids. Unfamiliarity with applicable laws and vehicle rights/responsibilities are also contributing factors. Finally, someone above mentioned liability — which I can almost understand, especially in light of potential bicycle thefts. The bottom line is that school boards and officials should be doing EVERYTHING they can to encourage exercise, green-living and reduced congestion for the kids we entrust to them…blocking access this way is shortsighted, at best.

  7. Kelly August 2, 2009 9:00 am 

    This is a tiny bit OT but –

    I notice the kids that ride bikes around here do it on the sidewalk – and not “safe” sidewalk riding, where they are looking at driveways and shoulder-checking or whatever as they cross roadways. There are a lot of kids on bikes in my town, and they are allowed to ride to school – so that part is great, at least.

    My kids and I practice vehicular cycling. My kids are 7 and 5. Personally, I think my eldest could bike in the road safely by herself and soon, as long as she keeps off the main thoroughfare (twin two-lane one way highways populated by loggers and tourists in huge motor homes). However, I can imagine she’d get stopped or I’d get arrested because she’s so young.

    So should I let her go on the sidewalk? This link suggests I should train my daughter on the sidewalk until she’s age 10, before being allowed on the road:

    I had previously told her, “You can’t bike alone until you’re 11” – because some awesome bike site I ran across suggested such. I told her this to give us time to train, but also to get her off my back. She still very much wants to ride on her own.

    I’m terribly sorry if I’ve hijacked the topic but I am definitely confused about how best to proceed. Any advice would be appreciated!

  8. no1mad August 2, 2009 1:18 pm 

    My first reaction to the first story is to make the school’s nightmare come true- Sue them. They took legally owned private property from the owner while on public property. Then had the nerve to say that the bike would not be returned unless certain conditions were met. So that’s what? Larceny/theft and some sort of extortion?

  9. Mike Myers August 2, 2009 2:12 pm 

    I’m 39, and I grew up in a small town in Louisiana. The population was 12,000 and the town was easy to get around on a bike. There were even plenty of places to lock up! I rode to school all of junior high and to high school until I got a car.

    Now I live in an area which is transitioning from agrarian to strip malls. Divided 4 lanes and narrow 2 lanes everywhere. I’m militant about being a vehicular cyclist and I still get scared. I can’t imagine kids riding to any of the schools here. None are near bike friendly roads. Sure, there are bike lanes but only for the bare minimum distance. They don’t help if you have to cross a 4 lane to get to them.

  10. Abhishek August 3, 2009 6:58 am 


    The fact that some roads are too dangerous to bike on is why some schools are going against it. The CTC in England tried to fight for the kid who wanted to ride his bike to school. If you get scared on some roads, imagine letting your 12 yr old son ride a bike on it.

    That is where vehicular cyclism fails and begs to ask for a different technique.

    I forwarded the article to Jack but I have mixed feelings on it. I might put this up on Carectomy soon.

  11. Ghost Rider August 3, 2009 7:05 am 

    Well, I have mixed feelings about these articles, too. I mean, the school officials think they’re doing the right thing by keeping childrens’ safety in mind…and in convoluted way they are. It’s still a sort of knee-jerk reaction, though, and doesn’t address the underlying problems.

    So, it begs the question — how do we increase overall bike safety so that kids can ride their bikes to school? SRTS is attempting to do this with their funding, but a lot of it is dependent upon the schools to apply for the money and implement the changes.

  12. Quinn August 3, 2009 9:11 am 

    I didn’t read the full article but with the administraters taking the boys bike IM sure the mother could report the administerators and get them repremanded some how, couldn’t she?

  13. ericnils August 3, 2009 4:56 pm 

    I ran into this at New Hartford Junior High School in New York State during the early 90’s. The school administration cited road safety as the primary reason there as well. The High School was in a different location in town and they allowed cycling and provided bike racks at that building.

  14. Karen August 3, 2009 5:34 pm 

    Yikes! Today, kids are in danger of being diagnosed with adult type diabetes and being prescribed meds for high cholesteral and high blood pressure. They are in real danger of being morbidly obese adults, if they aren’t already because of poor diets and lack of exercise. Are they more or less in danger from riding their bikes to school? I am stunned at this culture of fear that we live in today. I pulled a muscle in my back several times this year merely getting dressed in the morning, yet I am still not allowed to come to work in my pajamas. Strangely, I have not yet sustained injury while bike commuting.

  15. Sungsu August 4, 2009 7:28 am 

    One way to make it safer to bike to school is to ban parents from driving their cars within a five-block radius of the school. :-)

  16. Mike Myers August 4, 2009 10:05 am 

    Karen—the elimination of gym classes and the horror which is school lunch has more to do with obesity than the lack of juvenile bike commuting.

    If every town was like the one I grew up in, then I would encourage kids to ride. But I wouldn’t suggest it here. And that’s coming from someone who got run over from behind, the rarest type of truck/bike crash.

    It’s going to take MASSIVE infrastucture change to make bike commuting a viable option for kids. Well, and schools which are closer to home. My longest ride to school was 5 miles each way. Kids would have to ride 20 here, the way my county is spread out.

  17. Ken_Sturrock August 4, 2009 11:13 am 

    As a member of our ped/bike committee, one of biggest problems is parents jacking up local traffic patterns around schools – it’s like the invasion at Normandy. Furthermore, when the school does implement reasonable traffic patterns and queues for parents in SUVs, the kids and parents talk on cell phones and arrange pickup on a nearby street so the parent can avoid the queue – which FURTHER jacks up the traffic pattern.

    Schools! Bah!

  18. Lyle August 5, 2009 9:58 am 

    According to the principal of my son’s middle school in Pittsburgh, PA, biking to school is in fact against the rules. She seemed to think it was because there is no secure bike parking, and the district doesn’t want to be liable for the inevitable bike theft. She wasn’t quite sure about that, though, and promised to look into it. Time for me to follow up and see if she’s got some more concrete information. This is a neighborhood school in the old “horsecar suburbs”, so it is very much bikeable by middle-school kids, and has been for 30 years. The biggest safety threat is kids who live too close to qualify for bussing, but get driven to school by parents in SUVs. Put ’em on bikes!

  19. Riding to School In The Netherlands | Utility Cycling August 12, 2009 10:30 am 

    […] in some places in the US and the UK, children and parents are being told that they are not allowed to ride their bikes to school!  Let’s hope those incidents are isolated and please encourage your children to walk or bike […]

  20. joannajoseph April 9, 2013 2:40 am 

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