Imagine living in a community where all students walk to school. Students meet at hub points around the school and walk as a group. There’s no pick-up and drop-off congestion in school zones because no cars are allowed in.
When BikeTexas Board Member Francesca Funk lived in Japan for many years, this is exactly what her community was like. After seeing the happy children, parents, and teachers who all think of walking to school as a normal part of life, she was motivated to improve the walking and biking journey—and get rid of congestion around schools—for students in Irving, Texas.
Fortunately, every member of the Irving Bike Lane Task Force wants to make the school journey safer and better. The Irving Bike Lane Task Force was formed in 2009 as a joint citizen and city initiative to make Irving bicycle friendly. The goal of the Task Force is to make the bicycle “automatically integrated into the complete picture of transportation in Irving, as primary as the automobile.”
The Task Force is made up of dedicated citizens, city staff, and Irving police, who work cooperatively to make bicycle transportation as normal as car transportation in Irving. Using the five Es of a bicycle friendly community as guideposts, the Task Force works especially diligently to connect the dots between Education, Enforcement, and Encouragement. The underlying intention of this approach is to prepare the community so that when the Engineering features like bike lanes and cycle tracks are implemented, everyone on the roads will be prepared to use them correctly and safely.
Irving Police School Resource Officer (and Task Force member) Sgt. Kevin Denney took the lead in reaching out to Irving ISD. Sandi Cravens, Irving ISD PE Coordinator, immediately took action to organize a SafeCyclist Certification training for all of Irving’s elementary and middle school Physical Education teachers. On January 14, 80 teachers gathered at the Police and Fire Academy in Irving—40 in the morning and 40 in the afternoon. Nationally known cycling educator Regina Garcia joined BikeTexas staff to train Irving’s teachers to teach school children how to safely walk and bike.
Several Irving ISD schools have enthusiastically volunteered to pilot this program, so now Sandi, Kevin, and Francesca will join with Irving’s Traffic department to adapt the implementation practices Francesca experienced when her child walked to school in Japan.
BikeTexas has seen the SafeCyclist curriculum lead to a love of active transportation in Texas children that remains with them as they become Texas adults. This investment in Irving’s schoolchildren will pay off in safer streets and happier school trips for all. For more photos from this event, see our Facebook page.