CLARKSBURG -- Students were able to ride their bikes to Clarksburg Elementary School for the first time in years Friday morning, an initiative spearheaded by three eighth-grade students in the student council.
The students -- Brian Boudreau, Evan Canales and Brenden Piaggi -- were assisted by Principal Linda Reardon, Superintendent Jonathan Lev and Mass in Motion Project Coordinator Amanda Chilson.
"Prior to this, students weren't able to ride their bikes to school," Don Boudreau, Brian's father, said. "It wasn't allowed. Teachers can't even recall the last time students could ride them to school."
Brian Boudreau, who is also the student liaison to the Clarksburg School Committee, said the students originally requested a policy change from Reardon a year ago. The conversation picked up when Reardon reached out to Chilson, who works for Mass in Motion through the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.
"We slowly started plugging away at it," Chilson said.
The students created a PowerPoint presentation on the benefits of biking that was presented to the administration and teachers, she said, before it went to the school committee. Finally, the students went in front of the Board of Selectmen in April, where they received full support.
Last week, students participated in a bike safety course by Safe Routes to School, Chilson said.
On Friday, students, teachers, faculty and community leaders gathered together for a group bike ride to the school. The group received an escort by the State Police, which also closed a section of West Cross Road to traffic for the riders. In total, 17 students rode their bike to class for Bike to School Day.
After the ride, the students were given bike bells, reflective lights and reusable bags, courtesy of Safe Routes to Schools.
Chilson said the year-long process taught the students many life lessons, including activism and responsibility.
"Each meeting takes time; the preparation takes time; the decision and gaining the support takes time," Chilson said.
And as a result of the students activism, she said, conversations have begun to make West Cross Road safer for young cyclists with additional signs and pavement markings.
"There's a nice collaboration between the school and the town, all because three eighth-graders wanted to bike to school," she said.
Chilson said the next step will be working with the school to create a supportive bike-to-school policy and deciding how to move forward. A policy would state important details, she said, such as that students must wear helmets and lock their bikes.
"This is wonderful," said State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, who was present at Friday's event. "I think it's a great fresh start in getting healthier kids in our school systems."
The three students were invited to a taping of Cariddi's show, "Something You Should Know," she added.
Though Boudreau, Canales and Piaggi are moving on to high school just as biking to school is becoming a reality, none are disappointed.
"My sister will still be here for another three years after this, so she'll get to ride her bike to school," Boudreau said.
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I want to ride my bicycle
North Berkshire Mass in Motion and Bike North Berkshire celebrate Bay State Bike Week, May 11-19:
Bike to Work Week: Monday through Friday, employees throughout North Adams will be riding their bikes to work promoting and supporting bikeability in the city. Drivers should take notice.
Biking in North Berkshire Forum at Adams Visitors Center: Thursday, May 16, 6 to 8 p.m. This forum on the Northern Berkshire section of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail will consist of five panelists: state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright, an Adams town leader, Doug Plachinski of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, and community activist Lauren Stevens. An open floor for questions and ideas will be offered to the public.
North Adams Bike Night: Friday, May 17, 5:30 p.m. Meet up at North Adams Public Library parking lot for a free, family-friendly group ride around downtown North Adams.
For more information, contact Amanda Chilson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (413) 663-7588.