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Old 08-26-11, 02:09 PM   #1
NormDeplume
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How do I respond to this email from our school district?

I just received a note from the school district police officer because some citizens have apparently called to complain about kid(s) riding to school along the main highway in town (link to map of town here)

Quote:
Dear Parents,

Within the last week, I have received phone calls about student/students riding their bike to school using State Route 117. I have been asked about the legality of people riding along the Highway. To the best of my knowledge it is not illegal to ride a bike along the highway. I have addressed this concern with this student. I, along with other staff members, have suggested using another route to school. We can't force this student to take another route to school. All I can say is be aware of bikes of all kinds on the roadways.
Also since the school year is upon us, here are a few more reminders to help with the safety of everyone in their travels:
1) No cell phone use in school zones unless in hands free mode
2) Please watch speed limits in school zones. Speed limit is 20 mph when children are present
3) Watch for stopped school buses while unloading or loading students

Sincerely,
School Resources Officer
I've ridden on this highway myself and although it's a little scary when a semi drives by, it is plenty wide for everyone to share the road in most places. I have to admit my hackles are up. Because the city has never forced homeowners to keep up their sidewalks, kids couldn't ride on a sidewalk even if s/he wanted to, and there are several dead-end streets in town which would make an "alternate route" nearly impossible, depending on where said cyclist lives.

So, to sum up, I feel like it's finally time for me to step up and try to get the city and school district to start becoming more bike-friendly. How do I do that, long term? And short term, help me word a response that can advocate for kids trying to get to school via bike?
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Old 08-26-11, 02:39 PM   #2
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Keep your hackles up!! Because, It is summarily obvious that the residents, school district and road maintenance in that area, are individually(and I would almost say 'collectively') trying to 'pigeon hole those riders into a corner. They don't want them in the street, but they won't fix the sidewalks to back up their request. Even so, until the school district goes to court over students' riding their bikes' to school, the school district can shut their mouth. Because it is still the students' decision. Besides, Considering all the garbage the school systems' feed kids, getting exercise outside of gym class in the process of getting an education, helps squash all the weight problems from the muck kids eat at school.
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Old 08-26-11, 03:30 PM   #3
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Push for a bike lane?
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Old 08-26-11, 03:34 PM   #4
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What is the school district supposed to do?

They do not control the roads. They actually have done a very good job of trying to protect themselfs and the child involved.

If you want to take action go after the city street maintenence people. There is nothing the school has done wrong here.

I do not know if other routes are reasonable, if so suggesting the student take an alternate route is quite reasonable. Note that the school at no point implies that any action was ever even contemplated as regards preventing the choice of the student to take that route.

No wonder many people think cyclists are unreasonable.
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Old 08-26-11, 04:15 PM   #5
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What is the school district supposed to do?
The thing I'm reacting to is the implied "there's nothing we can do to force the kid to be sensible" tone of the email. It's a tone that might not be picked up without living here, in a place where it's assumed that the only people who bike are too poor for a car or have lost a license due to DUI.

I'd be happy to go after the city maintenance people, and my question from the OP stands: how do I get started with that? I've googled this issue multiple times over the years, and tend to find a lot of suggestions to call my Congressman. I need ways to convince the city council that bike lanes are a good idea. I'm asking for help, here. I'm really not trying to be unreasonable.
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Old 08-26-11, 04:30 PM   #6
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See if there's a Safe Routes to School program in the area? If not, propose one?
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Old 08-26-11, 04:36 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NormDeplume View Post
The thing I'm reacting to is the implied "there's nothing we can do to force the kid to be sensible" tone of the email. It's a tone that might not be picked up without living here, in a place where it's assumed that the only people who bike are too poor for a car or have lost a license due to DUI.

I'd be happy to go after the city maintenance people, and my question from the OP stands: how do I get started with that? I've googled this issue multiple times over the years, and tend to find a lot of suggestions to call my Congressman. I need ways to convince the city council that bike lanes are a good idea. I'm asking for help, here. I'm really not trying to be unreasonable.
I'm not reading it like you are, I'm reading it like they are on the side of cyclists who chose to ride to school. They suggested an alternate route--maybe not a bad suggestion, maybe so--but it's not like they said that students could not or should not use that route. Plus the resource officer then goes on to tell drivers to pay attention. That's certainly a step in the right direction.

If you want to use this as a reason to get involved, go for it, but to me this is a complete non-issue. Unless they tried intimidating the student first...?

Is there a bike advocacy group in your town? If not, maybe start one...
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Old 08-26-11, 04:36 PM   #8
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I think the email was polite, to the point, and let parents know the options; with some added safety reminders. I don't see any action needed here.
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Old 08-26-11, 04:37 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NormDeplume View Post
The thing I'm reacting to is the implied "there's nothing we can do to force the kid to be sensible" tone of the email. It's a tone that might not be picked up without living here, in a place where it's assumed that the only people who bike are too poor for a car or have lost a license due to DUI.

I'd be happy to go after the city maintenance people, and my question from the OP stands: how do I get started with that? I've googled this issue multiple times over the years, and tend to find a lot of suggestions to call my Congressman. I need ways to convince the city council that bike lanes are a good idea. I'm asking for help, here. I'm really not trying to be unreasonable.
I'm not reading it like you are, I'm reading it like they are on the side of cyclists who chose to ride to school. They suggested an alternate route--maybe not a bad suggestion, maybe so--but it's not like they said that students could not or should not use that route. Plus the resource officer then goes on to tell drivers to pay attention. That's certainly a step in the right direction.

If you want to use this as a reason to get involved, go for it, but to me this is a complete non-issue. Unless they tried intimidating the student first...?

Is there a bike advocacy group in your town? If not, maybe start one...
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Old 08-26-11, 04:43 PM   #10
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Is it feasible to ride with this kid? Or organize a group of cyclists to ride with him? It would be awesome to get a group of cyclists together and say to the community "This kid is one of us."
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Old 08-26-11, 04:52 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by NormDeplume View Post
I've ridden on this highway myself and although it's a little scary when a semi drives by, it is plenty wide for everyone to share the road in most places.
When an experienced adult rider finds the route a little scary at time and there are some places where the lane is not wide enough for sharing I'd personally hate to see young children using it without very close and alert supervision.

This might be a impetus for parents to get involved in finding/supporting/even creating safe routes to school.
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Old 08-26-11, 05:23 PM   #12
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No one ever mentions the age group that is being talked about. Are the elementary, middle, or high school? I'd like to think elementary and middle schoolers wouldn't be allowed by parents to ride on the main drag through town, I could see high schoolers take position in the lane if they have been cycling for a decent period of time.

To me it sounds like the road is sketchy in parts, the school doesn't want some kid getting creamed by a careless driver, and they are trying to help in some form or fashion without local enforcement...if that was even possible to be enforced.

We have service drives and alley ways we can ride in where I live. Is it possible to ride a block or two off the main drag? It looks like S. Darst can be reached from anywhere East of 117. You can even take Adams, cut a block over west and back over east which would meet back with S. Darst if it's a longer ride from the south side. The west looks a bit harder to re-route but i'm sure theres something that could be figured out. That may be a great place for an MUP or Greenway type project.
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Old 08-26-11, 05:59 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by NormDeplume View Post
The thing I'm reacting to is the implied "there's nothing we can do to force the kid to be sensible" tone of the email. It's a tone that might not be picked up without living here, in a place where it's assumed that the only people who bike are too poor for a car or have lost a license due to DUI.

I'd be happy to go after the city maintenance people, and my question from the OP stands: how do I get started with that? I've googled this issue multiple times over the years, and tend to find a lot of suggestions to call my Congressman. I need ways to convince the city council that bike lanes are a good idea. I'm asking for help, here. I'm really not trying to be unreasonable.
Ah, now your anger makes some sense. But still it really isn't the school so much as the yokels.

I am still a bit curious if there is a better route. Honestly near me I can think of a half dozen schools and all ahve at least one route I'd consider not safe. (One would pretty much have nothing but safe routes except for the mass of kids being dropped off. Streets as safe as one could hope for except when school is starting or ending). Oops just thought of one other school, it might be totally safe, I'd have to know the lines for where it draws students from.
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Old 08-26-11, 06:00 PM   #14
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Looking at street views on google maps I can see that 117 there are many parked cars and busy traffic. It does look a bit sketchy for young children to ride.

I agree with GrantH on this one .. perhaps it is time a MUP is discussed. Children should not be discouraged from biking to school...
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Old 08-26-11, 06:22 PM   #15
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No one ever mentions the age group that is being talked about. Are the elementary, middle, or high school? I'd like to think elementary and middle schoolers wouldn't be allowed by parents to ride on the main drag through town, I could see high schoolers take position in the lane if they have been cycling for a decent period of time.

To me it sounds like the road is sketchy in parts, the school doesn't want some kid getting creamed by a careless driver, and they are trying to help in some form or fashion without local enforcement...if that was even possible to be enforced.

We have service drives and alley ways we can ride in where I live. Is it possible to ride a block or two off the main drag? It looks like S. Darst can be reached from anywhere East of 117. You can even take Adams, cut a block over west and back over east which would meet back with S. Darst if it's a longer ride from the south side. The west looks a bit harder to re-route but i'm sure theres something that could be figured out. That may be a great place for an MUP or Greenway type project.
For the elementary school (where my kids attend), it's easy to find an alternate route from almost anywhere south of Rte 24. But for the middle school (south edge of town), there is absolutely no way to completely avoid Rte 117. There are some other roads around there, but they don't have shoulders and are scary even for motorists because they're just barely wide enough for two cars.

I agree that we need a MUP, and hope that some day I can figure out how to make it happen. As it stands now, the people in the center of town have to walk and push strollers on uneven sidewalks and the city council thinks they're doing a bang up job.

Keith99-- You're right, I'm not angry at the school officer. I'm upset with the yokels. Unfortunately, our city council is full of yokels. Our county board is worse. They just absolutely do not believe in infrastructure maintenance (which is sad, because it's a moderately affluent area and they could totally afford it).

Last edited by NormDeplume; 08-26-11 at 06:27 PM.
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Old 08-26-11, 09:16 PM   #16
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I do agree with the safe routes to school program but be aware it requires the highest ranking city official to begin the program (went through this today). Also perhaps remind parents that there are steps they can take to ensure their kids are extra safe (i.e. extra reflective gear and a flasher mounted on the rear). I hope it goes well for you!
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Old 08-26-11, 10:35 PM   #17
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Take your hackles and your posting and write a letter explaining the situation, not as a cyclist but as a concerned parent.

Have some friends proofread it and refine it.

Come up with a list of reasonable suggestions, like maintaining the road shoulder in the short term, adding a bike route in the longer term, and trying for some Safe Route to School grants to fund improvements.

Send individually-signed copies to the school principal, superintendent, each member of the school board, each member of the city council, the mayor, and local media.

Now it gets time consuming -- call each of them for a response. Don't settle for a polite "I understand your concerns," follow up with, "great, what can we do about it?".

Are there any local cycling advocacy groups who could help?

Your state DOT may have a bicycle/pedestrian coordinator who could help, too, if it's a state highway.
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Old 08-27-11, 04:48 AM   #18
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jputnam thanks for the great ideas.
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Old 08-27-11, 07:24 AM   #19
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You can petition to have the speed limit reduced too. I'm prety sure when I drive through towns like Lily Lake or Elburn or Hayward that the speed limits there are 25mph. You could also ask them extend the school zone on each side of the school too and put up flashers before and after school.
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Old 08-27-11, 06:40 PM   #20
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I fixed the letter from the School Resources Officer.

Quote:
Dear Parents,

Within the last week, I have received phone calls about parents driving students to school using State Route 117. I have been asked about the legality of students being driven to school using the Highway. To the best of my knowledge it is not illegal to drive a student to school using the highway, but there have been numerous, serious motor vehicle crashes with injuries on State Route 117. I have addressed this concern with some parents and students. I, along with other staff members, have suggested using another route to school. We can't force these parents/students to take another route to school. All I can say is be aware of parents/students of all kinds on the roadways.
Also since the school year is upon us, here are a few more reminders to help with the safety of everyone in their travels:
1) No cell phone use in school zones, NOT EVEN in hands free mode
2) Stop driving motor vehicles in school zones.
3) Watch for stopped school buses while unloading or loading students in your neighborhood even outside school zones.

Sincerely,
School Resources Officer
I would likely send it to the School Resources Officer, asking him to also mail it to all parents.
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Old 08-27-11, 10:11 PM   #21
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I fixed the letter from the School Resources Officer.



I would likely send it to the School Resources Officer, asking him to also mail it to all parents.
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Old 08-28-11, 01:37 PM   #22
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Be Careful with how you handle this !!!

I had a similar incident back when I was in college and was younger and dumber then I am now (somehow those two seem to go together ). Namely, I was pulled over by a highway patrol officer while riding south on Hwy-93 from Whitefish to Kalispell back when it was only a narrow two lane road. Full lights and sirens and all just like when a cop pulls a car over.

The officer walked up to me and proceeded to explain to me that it was unsafe, dangerous, stupid, reckless, idiotic, etc., and etc. . . to bicycle on that highway section and that I was to cease and desist. At which point I demanded he give me a warning ticket with what he was saying in writing and on that ticket he provide a written statement of his “probable cause” for pulling me over (MT is a probable cause state, and an officer of the law pulling someone over without probable cause can be subjected to departmental disciplinary action, misdemeanor criminal action, and civil action) while at the same time I was staring at his uniform and badge and memorizing his name tag and badge number. This kind of caught him off balance and he told me to wait and then went back to his patrol car and spent about five to ten minutes on his radio talking back and forth to his dispatch and then he turned off his lights and pulled back onto the road and took off without getting back out of his patrol car and talking to me again or giving me the written documents I had demanded. After noting the time I proceeded on my way and counted reflector posts till the next mile marker and memorized that along with the time and the officers name tag and badge number.

After my classes at the college were over I peddled my way down to where the nearest highway patrol office is located between Kalispell and Somers and went into their office and demanded to be given the proper paper work with which to file a written complaint against one of their officers who “had chosen to enforce his personal opinions in direct contradiction of the law of the state of Montana and had done so through an illegal traffic stop without probable cause” (direct quote of what I said to the lady at the desk up front).

Needless to say, I basically being young, stupid, and had my “hackles up” and basically “kicked over the hornets nest”. Long story short I made an enemy of that particular officer and several in the office staff and supervisory positions. Since then over the course of several years that same officer has pulled me over twice and there were many, many, many more times where he didn’t pull me over but just slowed way down to my speed and gave me a very long look over and followed me for a distance looking for a reason to pull me over but found none. The first of those two pull over’s was when I was riding at night and my rear tail light had stopped working and I didn’t realize it and he gave me a ticket for operating a vehicle with non-functional tail light after dark on a public roadway and creating a public hazard as a result. I won that case due to the fact that the MT state law code specifically states that only a rear reflector (which I had) is required for bicyclists and that a rear tail light is not required but only suggested (where as a head light is required after dark). The second time was when I was riding into town in early summer and he slowed way down as usual to check me out and then pulled me over for having studded snow tires on my bicycle after the legal date (studded snow tires are only legal on MT state roadways during a specified Winter period). I had been lazy and hadn’t taken them off yet. I lost that case and paid the fine since there is no exception for bicyclists stated for that particular section of the state law code.

I was able to patch up relations with that particular officer due to the way I handled the second ticket where technically I was legitimately on the wrong side of the law. The fact I admitted so and paid my fine without making excuse or wining or complaining earned me some respect in his eyes so he has left me fairly well alone over the last few years.

I have no objection to officers of the law responding to bicyclists who refuse to follow the rules of the road just as they would respond to motorists who refuse to follow the rules of the road, in fact, I encourage such and feel that equal rights can only be gained through equal responsibility. That said I don’t like being signaled out for even greater scrutiny then any other user of the road motorist or cyclists not withstanding by an individual officer with a grudge against me.

Long Story Short, the moral of me sharing my personal experience in this area is to serve as a warning about being very careful what exactly you do when you do and how go about doing it when you “have your hackles up”. It appears that the same attitude I faced you are also facing. That being the inability of some individuals to see the bicycle as a legitimate mode of transportation just as much as a motor vehicle combined with a misguided idea that those in charge have a duty to protect us dumb little people from ourselves and dictate to us what choices we should make that are within are own free will and within the law of the land. Yes, it is important to make a stand but how you do so determines whether you are a strong and wise individual or a dumb punk who kicks over the hornets nest and gets himself a whole heap of trouble and makes things worse then they already are.
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Old 08-28-11, 02:07 PM   #23
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Never, ever act alone! Get the support of your local bicycling advocacy group.
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Old 08-28-11, 02:41 PM   #24
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Never, ever act alone! Get the support of your local bicycling advocacy group.
What should the OP complain about?

The suggestion to use a different, possibly safer route?

A reminder to drivers to be cautious around bicyclists?

A reminder to not use cell phones while driving?

The acknowledgement that bicycling on roads is not illegal?

I think this is a situation of making something out of nothing. Parents complain to the school, the school plays CYA by sending out a general acknowledgement of the concerns, and offers safety advice. What's the problem?
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Old 08-28-11, 11:38 PM   #25
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What should the OP complain about?

The suggestion to use a different, possibly safer route?

A reminder to drivers to be cautious around bicyclists?

A reminder to not use cell phones while driving?

The acknowledgement that bicycling on roads is not illegal?

I think this is a situation of making something out of nothing. Parents complain to the school, the school plays CYA by sending out a general acknowledgement of the concerns, and offers safety advice. What's the problem?
Exactly the post I would expect from someone who, like the School Resources Officer, also considers cycling unsafe.
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