October 3 — 12:15 pm, 2014

A guide for student bike commuters

In response to the District’s proposed budget cuts to subsidized public transportation, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has created a guide for high school students who want to bike to school as an alternative.

Last school year, high school students who lived more than 1.5 miles from their schools were eligible to receive free SEPTA TransPasses. But in August the District made a proposal to increase the distance to two miles, making 7,500 high school students ineligible to receive the subsidy.

Hite said during the first School Reform Commission meeting of the new school year that the District is working with several partners to avoid the transportation cuts, but many students still need assistance.

Sania Mirzanschall, a teacher at the Academy at Palumbo, said some students take taxis because they live too far from public transportation or are unable to use it themselves.

“On a few occasions, those students were coming to school around 9:30 instead of 8 because the cabs weren’t bringing them on time,” said Mirzanschall.

The Bicycle Coalition’s guide shows the cost difference between biking and using SEPTA. It indicates that an appropriate bicycle, helmet, and U-lock, which cost about $180, are more reasonable investments than spending $2.25 a day to ride the subway, or $24 a week or $91 a month for a TransPass.

The guide also lists supplementary gear that families can purchase and instructional information on general safety, bicycle parking, and legal riding.

Bicycle Coalition education director Megan Rosenbach said the group is willing to work with schools to map out safe travel routes, install bike racks, identify resources for discounted bike maintenance and safety equipment, and extend “how to” classes to interested students about urban riding basics and changing flat tires.

Rosenbach said that classes could be facilitated through Philadelphia’s upcoming Bike Share program, which will supply public-use bicycles for students in low-income areas. Despite only receiving funding for K-8 programs, Rosenbach said the coalition will rally volunteers from among teachers and the bike community if there is an expressed need.

“You don’t need a ton of money to introduce people to biking because there are so many passionate people,” she said.

There is already a cycling fervor at Palumbo, where the number of student bikers surpasses its bike rack capacity. It is the school’s first year with a cycling club, whose members want to provide maintenance services and fundraising.

Rosenbach hopes that city departments will also encourage student biking.

“I would love to see the School District and police work together to make this happen where we’re not seeing biking as a risky way of getting to school, but a healthy way.”

Payne Schroeder is an intern at the Notebook.

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