-by Shawn O’Sullivan

They came from every direction: by ones, twos, and threes, in posses, in droves; some with newfound independence, some with proud parents in tow. Not quite a flash mob; more like an ad hoc parade:  shiny happy kids, dressed in stickered helmets and bright colors, many grinning from ear to ear, riding on a beautiful late spring morning to school.

Bike to School Week at Fairfield’s Sherman School has been an annual event since 2015. This years event was organized by PTA moms Jamie Foley and Joy Hood. The kids get stickers every day for participating, and can earn prizes. Says Foley, “This is always one of our biggest events, one of the events we can still do. Kids love to get out and be active.  We’re trying to get everybody involved. Not just the kids riding their bikes.  We’re trying to get kids who might be at home with the Remote Learning Academy, We’re encouraging them to maybe make signs to support their friends. They can be eligible for prizes as well.” She adds, “Not only is this good for kids, because they can get out and exercise, it’s also good for the environment and there’s less traffic on the streets so it’s safer for the kids to ride their bikes.”

Hood contacted 4Ocean, an organization dedicated to removing plastic debris from the Ocean and recycling it into bracelets. Each purchase pulls a pound of plastic from the Ocean. ”I’ve followed 4 Ocean for years,” says Hood. She noted that the bracelets were fitting prizes for Sherman, whose theme is Ocean, (the walls and halls are decorated with ocean-themed banners and murals)  and whose mascot is Sammy the Shark. “4 Ocean just pulled their 15 millionth pound of plastic from the ocean.” says Hood delightedly, and June 8 is World Ocean Day.” Hood and Foley are hoping that the bracelets will inspire other kids to purchase them as well. Fourth grader Freddy Foley agrees. “My favorite part is that I know the bracelets from 4ocean help save the ocean.” 

The PTA is also collecting gently used bikes to donate to Bikes for Kids, a CT charity, whose volunteers collect, repair and safety test donated bikes. The refurbished bikes along with new helmets are given to individuals of all ages and needs. Over 1,000 bikes are given annually with most of them remaining in CT.  Who knows, some of these intrepid bikers will be due an upgrade at the end of the week… if you have a bike to give, or know someone that needs a bike, contact jamielynnfoley@gmail.com.

Sherman couldn’t have timed it better. On June 7, Gov. Lamont signed Public Act 21-28 AN ACT CONCERNING PEDESTRIAN SAFETY, providing new protections for cyclists and pedestrians. Championed by Fairfield Representatives Laura Devlin, Jennifer Leeper, and Cristin McCarthy Vahey, some of its key provisions are stiffer fines for violators, such as cell phone abusers, allowing local traffic authorities to establish pedestrian safety zones, and establishing a pilot program to use automated traffic enforcement safety devices in school zones.  Says Karen Secrist of Fairfield’s Bicycle Pedestrian Committee “What would make this law most impactful would be for towns like Fairfield to improve the overall road designs, putting into place our Complete Streets Policy and other traffic calming elements that force drivers to go slower and pay more attention to their surroundings when they drive. “

Sherman principal Dr. Ian Banner says “We are so thrilled to see so many of our students and families cycling to and from school each day. We believe that embracing and engaging in this sort of exercise strengthens the connection in our community. Just as importantly, it provides many emotional, mental and physical health benefits and we truly hope that this form of communal exercise can be continued beyond Bike-to-School Week.”  Christine Ogurick, mother of Olivia and Everett notes that they usually walk to school, “but riding bikes seemed like another fun way to get here. We’ve actually never driven a car here once.”

Throughout the week, there are announcements related to bike week with fun facts, safety tips and and the much anticipated bike count, which pumped the kids to beat the prior number. By Friday, had reached a whopping 272.

Safety tips

  • Wear a Helmet Every Time You Ride, even if it is just for a short ride. Make sure your helmet fits properly and is certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Stay Visible: If a driver can see you they are less likely to hit you.  Wear vivid colors. Use lights in front and back of your bike when biking in low light conditions or at night.
  • Look & Signal: Use hand signals to let drivers know where you are going. Look over your shoulder before changing lanes. Use audible signals such as bells to alert pedestrians.
  • Go with the Flow: Bike on the far right side of the road with traffic
  • Obey all Traffic Signs & Lights: Cyclists have to obey the same rules of the road as automobiles do. Be courteous, be considerate of other driver and be cautious

Fun facts:

  • In 1817 a German professor, Baron Karl von Drais, created the first two-wheeled bicycle.
  • According to Seb Stott, writing in Bike Radar, “Cycling has a carbon footprint of about 21g of CO2 per kilometre (6.2 mi.) That’s less than walking or getting the bus and less than a tenth the emissions of driving.” 

So, Sammy the Shark and your sustainable students, ride on!