Braving Double-Parked Parents, MS 51 Students Bike to School in Droves

Bike racks set up for MS 51's annual Bike-To-School Day are filled with students' wheels.

Based on this picture of rows of temporary bike racks, all filled, it looks like MS 51’s Bike-To-School Day was a big hit (photo via Lara Lebeiko of Bicycle Habitat, which provided volunteers for the event). Escorted rides, or “bike buses,” took students from Sunset Park, Carroll Gardens and Windsor Terrace/Kensington to the Park Slope school and back. During the day, a bike skills and safety course helped teach the students how to ride on their own.

MS 51 has been holding a Bike-To-School Day event since 2010. Check out Streetfilms’ coverage of the school’s first year of festivities here.

But even a coordinated effort to promote biking to school didn’t eliminate one of the most persistent perils on the route to MS 51. In the morning, Fifth Avenue is a mess of double-parked parents dropping off their kids out in front of school. The bike lane in front of the school is routinely impassible, and today was no exception, as the below photo from Streetsblog reader Car Free Nation illustrates.

It’s great to see a city school promoting cycling to its students. To keep them riding, though, it looks like the city needs some traffic enforcement.

Double-parked cars block the Fifth Avenue bike lane before school starts.
  • USbike

    A quick and relatively cheap fix would be to swap the bike lane with the car parking lane.  No more double-parking issues and it’s now become a protected bike lane!  

  • bill b

    When I went to school in Manhattan several years ago all the parents and children walked to school. The only school buses I saw were in the suburbs when I was visiting relatives.
    You have to see this now in Manhattan. Big school buses, little school buses, cars , limos, taxis etc. leaving child off at school. This teaches our child not to walk to school.
    No wonder according to the NYC Dept of Health child are getting more obese.
    The 950 million dollars the city spends on school buses could be best spent elsewhere.
    Bike safety must be taught in school but as for letting your child ride a bike to school in NYC it is just too dangerous.

  • Anonymous

    Obesity is the result of parents’ chauffeuring  their kids everywhere. Kids can get some exercise by walking or biking to school.

  • moocow

    And oh man, do the cars honk when you take the lane to go around these people, they honk and accelerate with all the righteousness in the world.

  • Hilda

    My husband or I bike my kids, or bike with my kids, to school every morning that we can. We have been cut off by parents in their cars on their way to school to drop off their kids, and then they are waving and saying hi to us when we are all on the sidewalk or in school.  I like to think it comes down to people just not knowing any better. 
    At the same time, we are also surrounded by parents and kids walking/biking to school along the last half mile of the route, and it is really the most pleasant way to start the day. Our kids get a kick out of saying hi to all their friends as we ride past, or ride up to them.

    Thrilled with the MS51 Bike to School Day. Kudos to the organizers and the participants!

  • Mark Walker

    I don’t know what percentage of parents drive their kids to school in Sunset Park. But I’m surprised that it happens at all in a neighborhood of that density. I grew up in a small town that was much less dense and walked every day, anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes depending on the school (the longest walk was to high school). My parents have 8mm film footage of my mom walking me to my first day of kindergarten. By the end of the school year I was walking by myself. Nearly all of my classmates did as well, down the main street of the town, with a crossing guard near the elementary school.

  • @USBike, the only risk is that because this is more of a drop-off zone, you’re going to get a lot of passengers opening their door into the bike lane. A 0.5m buffer would solve most of that problem though.

  • Eric McClure

    Perhaps a driving skills and safety course for parents, with a special emphasis on not blocking the bike lane, could be on the program for next year’s Bike-to-School Day.

    I chaperoned one of the rides this morning, and had a terrific time.  Great way to start the day!

  • Miles Bader

     @EricMcClure:disqus How about a special emphasis on not driving your kids to school?

  • Ben Kintisch

    It’s a great photo, and I’m glad so many kids participate. I wonder how many bike the rest of the year? How do we go from an annual special day to a healthy new regular habit?

  • USbike

    @Dave B  Dooring is a good point that I hadn’t thought about.  Not that getting knocked over in any direction is ever good, but I’d argue that falling towards the sidewalk/curb is likely going to be less damaging then falling into a lane of traffic and potentially getting run over by a vehicle.  Both suck, but one can be much worse.  Plus it’s a little easier to watch for dooring when you’re not also worrying about moving traffic on your other side.  A 0.5 m buffer would definitely help to eliminate that possibility.  

    But if cars are constantly pulling into and out of that parking lane, then all the more reason to switch it with the bike lane.  There’s just too much potential for being hit by traffic from both sides.  The design here is just not very good.  As with anything, a poorly-placed/made bike lane is not necessarily better than nothing.  

  • Eric McClure

    @google-9ed3368a6439fa92efd353af4436290d:disqus , that would be the ultimate (non-)driving skill!

  • chandru

    Why spoil a positive story with manufactured negativity? Honestly, it’s as writers and commentators have never been outside the US in ‘real traffic’. What’s the big deal about moving around a bunch of parked or slow-moving cars for ONE block? If it’s too much, walk your bike the last block. Or, as kids are allowed to, use the sidewalk.

    It’s also a sad commentary that middle-school students need an escort to use their bikes. My son was going around by himself at 10.

  • Tallycyclist

    The big deal is that it’s risky to move around a bunch of parked cars (and very short term if dropping off kids) whose drivers are probably in a hurry to stop and go.  The initiative in the story was positive, but not the double parking.  Is it that big of a deal in actuality?  Probably not, though I haven’t biked there during rush hour so I don’t know.  But that’s not the point.  What is the purpose of that bike lane?  If it’s to make it more pleasant, safe and quick for cyclists to pass that one block, then it needs to serve that function at all times, especially during rush hour when presumably there are the greatest number of motorists and cyclists.  If not then it fails to serve its intended purpose and needs to be improved.  Taking the sidewalk approach is akin to putting in earplugs at bedtime rather than confronting your neighbor about being noisy and disruptive at night.  

    It’s indeed sad that middle-school students need to be escorted.  But that’s because the road conditions are probably not good enough that parents will their kids to bike otherwise.  Most 10 year-old Dutch and Danish kids bike on their own as well to school, but that’s because they have a safe network for getting around using any mode of transportation.  Just because they can do it doesn’t mean it’s shameful that these kids can’t.

  • Guest 2

    Fifth Avenue bike lane is already overtaken in the “2nd car lane”… good job Bloomberg.

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