Wednesday, October 8th was International Bike & Walk to School day and several New Jersey communities participated. The event originated in the United Kingdom in 1994 and extended to Chicago in 1997. The event since has expanded internationally, in order to promote year-round safe routes to school. Biking and walking to school provides several benefits to students and the community: it supports a healthy lifestyle, encourages community interaction, promotes safer streets, and teaches walking and bicycle safety.
Montclair, New Jersey has made strides to promote biking and walking across several of their schools. While schools encouraged bicycling and walking to school, the Montclair Police Department and Bike & Walk Montclair set up a temporary bicycle lane. Through a joint effort, they set up Montclair’s first “pop-up” bike lane running eastbound on Walnut Street from Park Street to North Fullerton Avenue and northbound on North Fullerton from Walnuts St to Rand Place, across from Renaissance School. A “pop up” bicycle lane is a temporary bicycle lane separated from traffic that provides a safe area for bicyclists to ride away from traffic and pedestrians. Often these lanes are used as trial runs for permanent placement.
Montclair’s pop-up lane was lined with orange cones and had several white bicycle decals spray painted onto the road to indicate the space was a bicycle lane. All types of active transportation were seen on the bike path: scooters, pogo sticks, and of course several bicycles. Several of the path users went on to the high school and nearby elementary schools, but most stopped at the Bike and Walk Montclair greeting tent to grab bicycle safety information and glow and the dark safety bracelets on their way into Renaissance School.
Active transportation is critical in providing safe and healthy communities. Encouraging children to ride safely and confidently at a young age is not only fun, but promotes a healthy lifestyle that they can carry throughout their lives. NJDOT has sponsored Safe Routes to School across the state which provides communities with information and resources for creating bicycle and pedestrian friendly routes to school.