Once prohibited, biking now a big part of Beach School

Posted by on June 1st, 2010 at 9:34 am

[This story was written by BikePortland contributor and Beach School parent, Chris Sullivan]

The Bike Fairy greeted kids
at Beach School on Friday.
(Photos: Chris Sullivan)

A few years ago, bikes were forbidden at Beach School in North Portland. Here’s a snip from the school’s 2002-03 family handbook:

“Bicycles, Skateboards, Roller Skates, etc… Due to the safety factor and other problems that occur at school over scooters, skateboards, Walkmans, roller skates, radios, toys, bicycles, etc., we are asking that students not bring these items to school.”

Last Friday morning the school hosted the culminating event of Walk + Bike to School month — a walk and bike train with over 100 kids, parents, staff, and neighbors. It stretched for four blocks.

Here’s video of the train in action:

The story of how Beach School changed its commuting culture so quickly is about people coming together to make the Safe Routes to Schools program a reality: dedicated parents and students; the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), the City of Portland; school administrators, teachers, and staff.

Beach School Principal Thomas Breuckman says the support of PBOT and the BTA has helped put biking and walking on the map at his school.

Racks outside Beach School.

“The program has really been in the spotlight at Beach this school year – and hopefully for many years to come. Students feel pride and excitement knowing they are participating in the Bike and Walk Program. Their parents feel good knowing they are supporting a healthy activity for their children and staff are excited to welcome students who have already had a bit of morning exercise to begin their day.”

Beach Elementary bike train-1

Parent Laurie Paulsen.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The sense of a strong community environment has been a common theme among those participating. The treats from the Bike Fairy and added exercise appear to be great motivators for the students who walk and bike to the school, but getting to know each other and share the experience seems invaluable parents, as Laurie Paulsen, parent and Walk + Bike volunteer organizer, explains:

“[T]he conversations along the way and around the bike rack build a stronger school and neighborhood community. I talk to people at the bike rack whom I never see otherwise.”

As a parent of the school myself for several years, it’s wonderful to see the community coming together and forming bonds. My daughter always seems more engaged and connected to the school when we pull up in the morning among all of the other families at the bike racks.

Bryn Dearborn, Beach School PTA President, echoes these sentiments:

“[T]he most exciting part of more kids riding and walking to Beach is the community aspect. You actually get to see people and talk to people. That goes for the kids too. Just the few blocks of the Bike Train it is so cool how the kids talk and interact even though they are in different classes.”

The unofficial count of just kids’ bikes locked up at the school Friday morning — to the new staple racks, to trees, to fences, to signs, to other bikes…wherever there was any space remaining — was 62. The goal for all riders was 50. Well done Beach School!

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Robert PingChris SullivanMike MoranmabsfGina Recent comment authors
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what a great story! that is so cool for these kids.

Tony Fuentes

I encountered the bike train on Ainsworth Friday morning. It was a pretty impressive sight!

It would be great to see this type of coordination at every school in town.

Scott Mizee

Holy Cow! Kids were not allowed to bring their bike to Beach School!!!???!???


That ride into to school with over 100 bikes was awesome. Two years ago we did not have a single staple rack on Concord at Beach and now we have 7 and clearly need more.

Chris Sullivan

They’re a safety hazard, Scott. You didn’t know that? Or are they a toy? I get confused.

Such a relief to see things turning around at Beach School after so long. It’s got a great vibe going now.


Didn’t a school in NY try to ban kids from biking to school?


I think that was Memphis…
Walk and Bike Challenge Month was a great thing all over town: The parents of Glencoe spontaneous decided that we need a 3rd bike rack – the 2 we have are constantly overflowing.
Hurray for all those great little cyclists and walkers!

Mike Moran
Mike Moran

Back when Ethan started in 04-05 (I don’t remember a family handbook) his little bike was the only one in the rack at he head start building. Even though we are only two block away, it was a point of pride for him to ride to school. I would ride with him some days on my way to PSU. Things have changed.

Chris Sullivan

Right–the hidden bike rack by Head Start. I always forgot it was there and would lock up to the front hand rails.

Then Laurie (if I remember correctly) was able to get 3 staples, and then a few months later 4 more staples due to increased use. Now we need even more. How cool is that?

Robert Ping
Robert Ping

Congrats to Beach school!

Gina (#6) – the school you mentioned that also had a bike-to-school ban is in Saratoga Springs, NY. A group led by a brave parent fought the school, with additional pressure from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and..believe it or not…Newt Gingrich (who is fighting childhood obesity, ironic yes!) and lots of media attention has led to a new school district policy allowing bikes, with restrictions, and it still needs more work. There are still many other schools around the country that do not allow biking, even walking!

The battle to let kids outside continues, but Beach is now a great role model for change!