“…Kids who move more aren’t just healthier, they also tend to do better academically,…”
Alexandria BPAC is helping students adopt healthy lifestyles that include walking and bicycling. These activities not only improve physical and mental health, they also nurture a sense of personal independence, and are good for the environment.
Starting in 2016 and continuing, BPAC has worked closely with ACPS to establish and carry out a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program that includes education and encouragement to promote walking and biking. ACPS recognized BPAC’s contributions with a 2017-2018 Outstanding Volunteer award for these ground-breaking efforts. More recently, BPAC provided a $3,000 grant to ACPS with funds from an I-395 Community grant program administered by Transurban. This grant enabled ACPS to meet its local match requirement for its SRTS program which is mostly funded by a Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) SRTS grant.
ACPS’ SRTS program includes safe walking and bicycling instruction in Physical Education (PE) classes as well as encouragement activities such as Walking School Buses and Bike-to-School days. The program includes an SRTS Coordinator who helps to ensure consistent approaches and to share best practices across ACPS schools.
One especially noteworthy component is Bicycling in the Schools (BITS), a program that teaches 3rd grade students how to ride a bicycle, and how do so safely. BPAC has helped ACPS acquire eight fleets of 35 bicycles each, plus storage trailers for the fleets, enabling expansion of this program to operate in all 14 ACPS elementary schools each year. BPAC members also provide more than 200 volunteer hours annually assisting PE teachers, by helping stage and maintain bicycles, providing instruction on proper helmet fit and learn-to-ride assistance for new riders, and teaching use of hand signals while cycling and riding on streets to students who have demonstrated basic riding skills. Watch the video here.
A second especially noteworthy component of ACPS’ SRTS program is their Port City Alexandria Pedestrian (PCAP) Program. This program uses a model city setup in school gymnasiums, including small-scale buildings, schools and parks, streets, sidewalks, intersections, etc., to drill students on the meaning of street signs, how to maintain awareness at all times, what are the most common risks, and how to negotiate different types of intersections and crosswalks.
BPAC also helps ACPS with a Bike Giveaway program which distributes about 24 newly-refurbished bicycles each semester to selected students who have just completed the BITS program. PE teachers and school staff select recipients for the Bike Giveaway based on criteria such as which students do not own a bicycle and are unlikely to have resources to buy one. In 2019, BPAC members collected used bikes and donated nearly $1,000 to pay a local non-profit bicycle shop to refurbish bikes for this program.
BPAC also participates in SRTS Walk Audits. A walk audit evaluates walking and biking conditions within about a ¼ mile radius of a school. The purpose of a walk audit is to identify safety concerns for students who walk or bike to school. Information from the audit is used to prioritize future infrastructure improvements through the Complete Streets program. Improvements may include curb extensions, crossings, or better wayfinding to schools along accessible routes. Additionally, SRTS Walk Audit reports include programmatic recommendations for increasing safe walking and biking to schools for consideration by ACPS.
How You Can Help
We invite you to help ACPS sustain this important program for Alexandria youth. You can help sustain this important program in 3 important ways:
- Donate Money: You can help continue this program by sending a check today to Alexandria BPAC, 622 Fort Williams Pkwy, Alexandria, VA 22304 (preferred method) or donating online here. Include a note to allocate your contribution to the ACPS SRTS and/or Bike Giveaway program. Your donation will help more students learn to be active and develop life-long healthy habits.
- Donate Bicycles: Have an children’s bicycle lying around? If so, please consider donating your used 20-inch or 24-inch bike for the Bike Giveaway program. Contact us at AlexandriaBPAC@gmail.comand we’ll coordinate to pick-up used bikes to be refurbished for ACPS students.
- Volunteer: You can volunteer to assist PE teachers provide walking and biking education to their students. Volunteers are needed to organize bikes for riding, fit helmets, pump up tires, assist new riders, lead rides, etc. Volunteers do NOT need know how to ride a bike – just helping with logistics will be much appreciated. Contact us at AlexandriaBPAC@gmail.com for more information.
Why is this important? “Research shows that kids who move more aren’t just healthier, they also tend to do better academically, behave better in class and miss fewer days of school.”1
Solution: Help expand walking and bicycling education in ACPS’ elementary school PE curriculum, as a component of a Comprehensive Physical Activity Program.
Please join us. We invite you to join us in helping ACPS expand walking and biking safety education. Please consider sending a check today to Alexandria BPAC, 622 Fort Williams Pkwy, Alexandria, VA 22304 (preferred method) or donating online: