Monday, May 24, 2010

High-schoolers leading biking-to-school movement

BY JORGE BARRIENTOS, Californian staff writer

The new Bakersfield High School Caterpillar Biking Club is on a mission -- bike to school the entire month of May, and get as many students and residents involved as possible.

"We really just try to encourage people to ride their bikes," said BHS senior and bike club President Peter Welsh. "There's an alternative way to get around."

From Monday through Friday, students ride their bikes several miles through Stockdale Highway, taking a trail to Beach Park and over to BHS where members attend school. Some have given up their cars entirely for May -- National Bike Month -- riding to school, work and to run errands.

Welsh rides more than 13 miles every school day to and from BHS. A group of students meets at Finish Line Bicycles on Stockdale Highway just after 6 a.m..

"It's such a great way to start the morning," said Welsh, who has logged hundreds of miles this month. "It gets my day going."

The school club has gotten the support of several local biking groups, including Bike Bakersfield and Safe Routes to School, a national center advocating safe ways to get to school.

Ramon Jacquez, local coordinator of Safe Routes, has taught the students rules of the road, hand signals and ways to stay safe.

He said BHS students, who kicked off the club this month, have taken the lead in trying to get other high schools involved, and is the first campus to join Bike Bakersfield's junior club.

Local biking officials hope to use the school's club as a pilot program for other campuses. Arvin and Stockdale high schools are pushing to join the biking movement next year.

"The students are awesome," Jacquez said. "These young cyclists will be cyclists their whole lives."

Snider's Cyclery on Union Avenue is opening its doors to the students, too, teaching them how to repair bikes for free.

The students are "health-minded," simply enjoy riding their bikes and want to share that passion with others, said David Krog, a Spanish teacher at BHS and Caterpillar club adviser. Krog has ridden to school the last several years.

Adam Montoya, a junior at BHS, will take the lead next year for the Caterpillars (the club name has no real meaning, students said). His ultimate goal is to get more campuses involved in biking to school.

"It's healthy and it's fun," he said. "And it gets you from point 'A' to 'B' as a plus."


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