Robert Ping, the State Network Coordinator for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership shared a startling bit of information during his presentation at the Safe Routes to School Conference today.
In communities throughout America, students are being told they are not allowed to bike to school.
“It’s pervasive throughout the country and we’re hearing about it more and more,” he said. The problem, according to Ping, is that many school principals and administrators feel that biking and walking to school is simply unsafe. They are concerned about being held liable for anything that happens during the trip to and/or from school.
“The problem isn’t necessarily the biking or walking, but the concerns over liability that come with it.” Ping said his organization sees this as “an emerging issue” and they’re in the process of coordinating more research on it. At this point, they want to get a handle on just how many cities have bike bans in place.
In addition to studying the current scope of the problem, the Safe Routes National Partnership is putting together a team of legal experts who will craft a legal statement directed at school principals, outlining why improving biking and walking options will not increase their liability exposure. They hope the legal statement will also help allay the fears that lead to bike ban policies in the first place.
Ping said one safe routes advocate he heard from countered a bike ban in their community by asking the principal whether or not he felt liable for kids who drive to school. “That’s a great way to push back on this idea.”