Will more kids bike to school?
by Anna Oakes
About 60 students at Hardin Park Elementary
walked or rode their bicycles to school on Thursday as part of International Walk+Bike to School
Joined by parents and other adult
volunteers, student cyclists met at Earth Fare and at the Regal Cinema parking lot just after 7
a.m. so they could ride together in large groups to the school, located on Jefferson Road (N.C.
194) in Boone. The students convened again at 2:30 p.m. to ride home.
think today was a good day to show people that you can bike to school,” said Kaitlyn
Jongkind, a health promotions employee for the Appalachian District Health Department.
event at Hardin Park was also held to celebrate the installation of a new bicycle rack at the
school — the result of a student-led initiative. Hardin Park Elementary seventh-graders
Kelsey Marlett, Katie Mac Knight and Levi Marland, who have biked to school for two years,
collaborated on a grant application to fund a new bike rack at the school.
successfully received a grant of approximately $1,800 from the health department’s Take Step
Two initiative, funded by a Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant from the Centers for
“Take Step Two is
focused on making our communities healthier places to live,” said Stephanie Craven, healthy
youth policy coordinator, in a statement. “This bike rack will encourage Hardin Park
Elementary students to bike to school and engage in daily physical activity.”
to requesting funding for a bike rack, Marlett, Knight and Marland conducted a survey at Hardin
Park last school year and found that while 73 percent of parents think that riding to school is
healthy, 75 percent of parents do not allow their children to walk or bike to school because of
traffic safety concerns.
The students appeared before
the Boone Town Council in April to make a presentation on bicycling safety and infrastructure needs
on New Market Blvd. near the school. The students requested that the town install stop signs and
crosswalks at New Market Blvd. at the intersection between Boone United Methodist Church and the
High Country Council of Governments building.
“It would be nice if
there was a sidewalk going up in front of the Methodist Church,” Marland added at the time.
Since then, the Boone Public Works Department installed a sidewalk from the church to the school
crossing on New Market Blvd.
“I was very impressed
with these students who wanted to encourage their classmates to get more exercise and also be
environmentally friendly,” said Hardin Park Principal Mary Smalling. “The
students then took it another step by seeing the need we had in the form
of bike racks and met with me to discuss how to make it possible for us to add additional bike
racks to the school. They have learned a lot along the way, and we love the new bike
More than 80 percent of Hardin
Park students live within a two-mile radius, according to a press release from the health
“The school could save
on busing costs while increasing their students’ health and level of physical
activity,” the release stated.
Smalling acknowledged that
safety remains a big concern in allowing students to bike to school. Developing safe routes and
organizing group rides will help with that, she said.
“Any time you have a big
group of bikes, obviously they’re getting noticed more,” Smalling said.
“We’re also working to try to get a sidewalk that rides along the side of the school.
It is by no means a perfectly safe bike town, but I think it is something that the town is working
The town of Boone recently
received funding via the N.C. Department of Transportation to create a bicycle plan for the
For more information about Take Step Two, visit http://www.takesteptwo.com or contact Craven at (828) 264-4995.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled the name of Hardin Park seventh-grader Katie Mac Knight.