Students are very familiar with the following picture: the senior lot, full; the streets leading up to the school, full; the lot at the South Boulder rec center, full; and the lot at the church, full. Near and far, most students come to school by the most convenient mode of transportation: car. For as big of a bike culture that Boulder has, not enough students are taking advantage of the option to bike to school.
However, there is potential for this to change. Graham Hill, a director of the organization Shared Paths Boulder, recently suggested to reward students with P.E. credits if they bike to school frequently. The district is now discussing the project, and it could possibly be underway by the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.
“It would be great if students who already bike to school, or could use an incentive to do so, had the chance to earn credit for their efforts,” said sophomore Emery Jansen. “We already work so hard doing extracurriculars and our school work, and many of us already either bike or walk to school. It would be nice to be rewarded for that.”
Students are also in support for this program, as they know that they could benefit greatly from it. Other than helping students focus more on school work, the program could also be beneficial for the school itself.
“I have got this term called ‘carbon privilege.’ And so ‘carbon privilege’ is basically when you have the means to drive, you do, even though it could be better for the community and the school and for your physical health if you biked or you walked,” said Hill. “So, Boulder suffers greatly from ‘carbon privilege’ because it’s great that you have a chance to get to school by car.”
As short as the trip to school may be, taking a car every day can accumulate and eventually become harmful to the environment by contributing to carbon emissions. People could lessen their environmental harm if even a fraction of them began to use an alternate mode of transportation.
“To get more kids riding [bikes] to school, that means less people driving, less environmental impact, [and] better use of the pathways,” said Principal Don Strensrud. “The whole premise was to try to get as many kids as possible to ride bikes to school because we have a tremendous bike pathway through our city.”
Colorado, with the exception of the occasional rain and snow, typically is blessed with sunshine year round. Boulder has a great bike culture and is abundant in safe bike paths, and thus there is no place else that would be as apt to develop such a program. Plus, life in the 21st century provides students with the availability of equipment for this program, such as GPS trackers and heart rate monitors, which lets students prove that they bike. Obstacles such as the inability to provide a safe pathway for students to use and the possibility of students cheating are not an issue.
The significance of this potential program lies in the fact that no school in the United States as of today has adopted it. The district has yet to consider the potential benefits — for the community, for the schools, for the students and for the environment — at full, and by having BVSD take initiative and prove to demonstrate these benefits, it could serve to inspire other districts as well.
“The idea of really giving that chance to be rewarded with P.E. credits, in lieu of one of these B.S. [online] P.E. classes,” said Hill. “It’s nothing but a real positive step forward if the school district and the students support that as well.”
This story was originally published on The Royal Banner on October 23, 2019.