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February 26, 2006

Santa Barbara School the Bikingest in America

The Article I'm recommending is 4 years old, but very much still relevant, and worth your time:

Buzz went my alarm at 5:30 AM. It was dark, but I got up because I had a biking date. It was dry outside, but the online radar showed incoming rain. Not good.

Would the kids show up? Probably all their parents would drive them instead of allowing them to contend with rain in city traffic. I considered calling it off, but instead dressed for rain and biked to Mike's Place, the restaurant where they meet each Friday.

As I approached, what was that? —a mob of bikes! And 13 kids plus three adults, eating breakfast on the outdoor terrace. With a light rain falling!

The kids were from Santa Barbara Middle School, an independent school for grades 6-9, located in Santa Barbara, California. On their own, a few students started a "Breakfast Club" each Friday on their way to school. From those few, it has grown by word of mouth to over 20 students at a time.

Everybody was eating and chatting, but it was soon time to ride. Helmets on, jackets zipped up, backpacks shouldered. The mile ride to school was done with careful single-file riding, watching for cars, foot-down stopping at signals and stop signs, with warnings like "car back" called out. I pedaled and wondered, could this heart-warming scene be replicated elsewhere?

Santa Barbara Middle School was founded in 1976 by a group of parents, teachers and students who sought to create an innovative, challenging academic program. For the first few years, the school culture was similar to many others. Just when the staff was thinking of adding outdoor activities in 1979, their new headmaster and cycling enthusiast Kent Ferguson came on board. Kent thought that a cycling trip would be just the ticket to introduce kids to the great outdoors, so it happened.

The school's first bike trip took place in 1980. It was optional, and some students choose not to go. But the experience was very satisfying for those who did, so cycling was made a mandatory part of the school program. "Mother nature," observed Kent, "is the best teacher."

Continue reading this excellent stroy:

SANTA BARBARA BICYCLE COALITION ( 1/6/2002 ): The "Bikingest" School in the Country by Ralph Fertig.

Find out more about Santa Barbara Middle School.

Learn more about the Outdoor Education Program ( 2 of the 3 yearly expeditions are Bike Rides ) here.

February 26, 2006 in Pedaling Advocacy | Permalink

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