We asked ELi readers to submit questions for the seven candidates for the East Lansing Public Schools’ Board of Education. We selected five (some questions were duplicated) and will run candidate responses to those questions this week. The answers have not been edited.
Question 2: Do you support parents, staff and students riding bicycles to all of our schools – elementary, middle, and high school? If not, why not, and if so, what accommodations would you want to have provided?
Nichole Martin: Yes, I support parents, staff, and students riding bicycles to all of our district schools. I believe that this effort can support a number of health and developmental skills, such as physical activity, independence and community engagement. I believe that in order to support such an effort there would need to be a great deal of oversight involved to ensure the safety of all who chose this method of transportation to schools. This effort could be supported by establishing local partnerships to oversee this endeavor and would be a great way to model to the community that we are engaged and open to creative solutions for support our children.
Hillary Henderson: I support parents, staff and students riding bicycles to all of our schools. I have spent the last 21 years as a fitness professional, and support all types of additional movement for our students and community. There are numerous studies proving that kids who have movement before school, have a higher attention span once they enter the school building. I will fully support bike racks at all of our schools and will promote learning opportunities for students that focus on safe biking in our community with the help of Safe Routes to School.
Kath Edsall: As a lifelong biker, I fully support biking to school at all grades. In the last year, I have spoken with board members and community members to garner support for policy changes that support biking to school. I supported the Safe Routes to School mini grant and see it as the first step towards biking at the elementary level. Prior to policy change, implementation planning would require working with elementary school administrators to develop an initial plan of support before and after school, provisions for bike pads and racks that are easy for younger children to use (either in a school bond or through private fund raising), a requirement to wear and way to supply helmets for every child riding to school, hopefully developing a means of access to bikes, helmets and locks for those children who cannot afford them and drop off points for families who live across busy roads or at a distance that is too far for young children. I believe these could be done in conjuncture with the Safe Routes to School work that has already been put in place so families could be instructed in the best and safest routes to ride to school.
Robert Clark: I absolutely support the idea of more people riding bikes to all of our schools. It encourages a healthy lifestyle, and it can help reduce our traffic problems on school days. However, we need to work with the city government, and traffic advisers to make sure of the safety of our cyclists. Additional cyclists create the possibility for more accidents and therefore we will need to see to it that there are places they can ride safely. This may take the form of bike lanes on our roads, special bike paths on our campuses, or special bicycle parking areas. Most likely it will be a combination of all three. Extra signage and signal lights will mostly likely be needed as well. The biggest change is going to be a mental shift in our community acknowledging out cyclists on the road, having enough space for them, and keeping the roads safe.
Mike Conlin: I would love to see students, parents, faculty and staff bike to ELPS schools. The big concern is whether this policy can be implemented in a safe manner. I greatly appreciate the work of the East Lansing parents on Safe Routes To Schools –including events my children participate in like the National Walk To School Day every October (all 5 elementary schools this year) and the first Walk and Roll Safety Day in September. The City is another natural partner in the effort to educate drivers and maintain safe routes, given that our students are walking and riding the city streets of East Lansing. The school board should coordinate safety efforts with the East Lansing City government. Finally, the upcoming bond proposal provides an opportunity for us to spend tax dollars wisely to update our schools with infrastructure to promote all safe routes to schools. Parking, drop off design, and bike racks can be part of a comprehensive bond that meets the needs of our walkable and bike-able neighborhood schools. If elected to the board, I will educate myself on the issue and do everything I can to ensure students are able to bike safely to all ELPS schools.
Kyle Guerrant: Yes, I support students, parents, and staff riding their bicycles to school. Our community takes pride in our neighborhood school model, and I think it's important we support all modes of transportation to and from our buildings. This approach would have safety and policy implications that the Board would have to address in collaboration with parents, district administration, and the City of East Lansing. I would encourage the Board/District to adopt a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) approach and partner with groups like the Michigan Fitness Foundation (MFF) to assess, plan, and create a safe bike-to-school environment. I would pursue programs like SRTS that make resources available to schools and provide training, technical assistance, and funding to implement an effective bike-to-school strategy.
Erin Graham: Yes, I am fully supportive of children, staff, and parents biking to school, and I have been supportive of this since before I was a board member. We moved to East Lansing from Seattle, which is where our daughters attended an elementary school in which biking to school was encouraged and embraced. During bike to school month, the school hosted a bike rodeo and bike shops volunteered to do free tune ups for students’ bikes. My prior experience at this school informs how I view biking to school in our community.
I do understand that some community members are concerned about children’s safety. I do not think safety is something to be taken lightly, and we certainly have areas of the school district that are not as bike-friendly. This is why it is important to work with our parents and with our city to help teach safe biking practices and to assess “safe routes to school.” We should collaborate with our parents, who have done a great job promoting non-motorized ways to get to school, to help us facilitate safe biking to school. As a district, we should also provide bike racks at all of our schools.
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