Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Santa Monica students pedal for Bike It! Day tomorrow

The streets of Santa Monica will look pretty different tomorrow morning — filled with hundreds of students getting to school on bicycle. Bike It! Day, an event when Santa Monica students are encouraged to get to school without getting into a car, happens June 1. And the event’s expected to be bigger and greener than ever.

“Its been growing,” says Richard McKinnon, chair of Bike It! Day and a parent at Santa Monica High School. “And every time more kids join from the elementary levels.”

Bike It! Day got its unofficial start about three years ago when Santa Monica High School students organized a bike-to-school event that attracted fewer than 100 participants. About a year later, the event was officially renamed Bike It! Day — and has since grown and expanded to other Santa Monica schools — and other green modes of transportation. The last event in October 2010 got around 3000 kids from 12 schools across Santa Monica and Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District participating by biking, walking, and taking buses to schools. According to McKinnon, more than half the student population at Santa Monica High School participated, with 1600 of the 3000 students opting to travel green, at least for a day.

Tomorrow, 13 schools will participate, with Juan Cabrillio Elementary School in Malibu joining the already-committed dozen: Santa Monica High School, Lincoln Middle School, John Adams Middle School, Santa Monica Alternative School, and seven elementary schools — Edison, Franklin, Grant, McKinley, Muir, Pt. Dume, Rogers, and Roosevelt.

The biggest event’s still at Santa Monica High School, where a student environmental group called SaMoHi Solar Alliance has helped organized a bunch of activities. Cyclists and other green travelers will be rewarded with breakfast and a sticker — redeemable during a lunchtime celebration in the school’s Science Quad for a popsicle.

But Bike It! Day has really become a city-wide event, with the city helping out by putting up road arrangements and signs, and providing staff to control traffic. The Santa Monica Police Department will be out — both on cars on bikes — to keep students safe. And a bike safety event for students held a couple weeks ago also helped prepare newbie cyclists.

The day’s bike-friendly initiative has now come far beyond the occasional events, according to McKinnon. Upwards of 120 people bike every day to Santa Monica High School, compared to just 20 or so only four years ago, he says. “Bike It! Day has proved to be extremely beneficial to our community, bringing together all the schools, parents, students, administration, and local businesses in an effort to combat global warming, one bike at a time.”

Image: Poster of Bike It! Day (Richard McKinnon)