Friday, September 25, 2009

Bike Rally How-To

Monday was world Car-Free day. It's hard to organize things early in the school year, so we'll be holding a Drive Less Week next week that includes a car-free day on Friday. We'll be ticketing cars with incentives to walk like we did last year. Then we're going to start weekly eco-challenges, so watch for them here every Friday. If you're a teacher, you can stay one week behind and not have to think about what to do with your environment club this year!

On Wednesday, we might actually have a Bike Rally. But we can't call it a "bike rally" because it encourages racing, so instead it's called "Raiders Ride for the Earth" which is pretty nice anyway.* This way we can include all forms of human-powered vehicles like skateboards and roller blades too. The only problem is we haven't had anyone sign up for it yet.

I asked my class if the $5 entrance fee was the problem. Most said "no," it's the biking they don't like. I carve out time to be able to go cycling, so that's a bit baffling to me. They said they'd pay $5 NOT to bike in the not-a-rally. That conversation was juxtaposed with Terry Fox Day celebrations at the grade school next door. As I got to school, 9 and 10-year-olds were all running around the block, and they were all struggling to run. It's not a big block. Well, at least they tried. Even the olympic torch is doing more driving than running.

Along with the ticketing and the ride, we're challenging people to walk any place they need to go that's under 3 km. In our display case, we'll have a map that shows exactly how far that is by including distances from the school to various landmarks around us. I chose that limit because I made my kids walk to gymnastics when they went at 8 and 10, and that's about 3 k. So, surely high school kids can make it that far. It's just for one week, but we're hoping once people start a challenge, they'll keep with it. Once they see how short of a distance 3 k really is, and how much better they feel walking more, maybe they'll like it. Or, they'll be late for work and never try it again!

Raiders Ride for the Earth How-To

This takes several weeks of planning and several months of waiting on approval from admin. We used to run car rallys annually, but people are much more wary of letting teens bicycle. There was a recent article in the local paper about how fearful people are of cycling even though we're about twelve times more likely to die from a car crash than a bike collision. Only about 5% of cycling accidents are caused by a car trying to pass a bike. Most of the rest common causes of accidents are because cyclists don't always pay attention to the rules of the road. This is unfortunate, yet at the same time it's lucky because there's an easy fix: teach cyclists the rules and enforce them. I hate cyclists who race through stop signs; it makes me look bad. Earlier in the week, at the Ontario Cycling summit, Jim Bradley agreed. We'll see where things go from here in our province. Anyway, back to the not-a-rally:

Before we got going we had to make sure we had enough students to organize and run each event, and had enough teacher supervisors for each event and for every road crossing.

Teams of four sign up and pay $5 each to participate. All proceeds will go to charity. The winning team gets to choose the charity. That's pretty much the grand prize. They go to four different activity areas in town and do a scavenger hunt to get points. They don't get points for speed, so anyone can attend. They get points for general awesomeness.

Teams go to the activity stations in different orders so there's not a backlog. One activity has them running a relay on a variety of kid toys including tricycles, a horse, and a wagon. The get points for speed and technique. At another they have to put extra-large lingerie over their clothes and sing karaoke at the city square. They get points for collecting the most change from strangers (for charity) for their performance. Another station has them balancing a bucket of water on their heads and walking through a mine-field of garbage. And the final one is a garbage sort relay where they have to correctly separate garbage into recycling, composting, bottles, paper, and garbage.

We'll provide each contestant with a clue to the first station, a pair of gloves, and a bag. As they ride, they must collect several types of garbage on the trails. We're lucky because our school is close to a trail that leads to a park and to the uptown. On top of all this, they'll also have to do a scavenger hunt that includes getting signatures on a petition for something, like more bike racks on the main street, and getting little things from local shops that have an environmental or social justice focus (10,000 Villages, etc.).

Back at the school, students will have to use a glue gun to make a piece of art with the garbage they collected. Judges will determine the most creative entry. Then drinks and treats will be had by all as the scores are tallied. We sent out letters asking for prizes from various cycling places in the city, but none responded so far.

Some Info and Quotations for a Display:

We're hoping to encourage more walking rather than encourage alternative cars.
Electric cars still need electricity from somewhere, and it's often not from solar cells. Instead of finding new, less hazardous ways of getting around in cars, I prefer to focus on the healthiest types of transportation: cycling and walking.

Want to get healthier and save money? Walk or bike instead of driving.

Walking and biking...
slow the progression of disease
tone up your body
reduce blood pressure
improve your immune system
help maintain your mental ability
reduces stress
can relieve depression and anxiety
create safer communities
help you get to know neighbours
might make you live longer!

Cars increase...
climate change
the hole in the ozone layer
acid rain
urban sprawl
oil spills
road rage
water pollution run-off
accidental deaths!

Can we obliterate the car before it obliterates us? The longest journey begins with a single step, not with a turn of an ignition key.

A good resource for information is the book Divorce Your Car by Katie Alvord. We had several books in our info display also.

There was a critical mass held on World Car-Free Day, but I also advertised the ones held the last Friday of every month, which is today. We encouraged car pooling and car sharing. There was a proposal for bike sharing in Waterloo made over a year ago. We'll encourage students to write to our mayor to encourage that to be a reality.

After all this, let's just hope we get some takers!

*We're KCI Raiders with a pirate mascot. It used to be a horribly offensive 1st Nation mascot, so we decided to change it. That final decision was made just before the Somali pirate issue. Even before that I had hoped we could be raccoons, but I was outvoted.

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