Wheels are spinning in attempt to install bike racks on campuses

Maria Morgan’s children, Maggie and Ben, ride bicycles to Alamo Elementary School every morning. But when they get there, they chain their bikes to a fence, because the school doesn’t have bike racks.

Morgan approached the school about adding them, but couldn’t find a way to get a bike rack approved, an experience bike advocates say has been typical with the San Francisco Unified School District.

Additionally, data on which schools have bike racks is not kept by the district, according to spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.

Now the school board is greasing the wheels for future bike rack requests, according to board President Mark Sanchez.

“Right now, very few schools have bike racks, because we’ve had no protocol [for approving them],” Sanchez said.

Students, parents and teachers told The Examiner that they’ve been asking for more bike amenities on school campuses.

Ramon Solis, a senior at Lowell High School, created a project to replace older racks at Lowell with new ones, creating more space for bike parking.

“Bikes are one of the best ways to fight global warming,” Solis said. “People are really happy [about the racks] — one of my friends started biking to school after they were added.”

Many teachers already ride bikes to school, but lock them up in storerooms or keep them in their classrooms. But letting 30 students store their bikes in a classroom isn’t realistic, said bicyclist Chris Pepper, a health teacher at Balboa High School.

“I have my students keep logs of their fitness, and quite a number ride bikes on the weekends. If we made it easier, I think some of them would bike to school,” Pepper said.

The San Francisco Youth Commission proposed setting aside $15,000 in city funds approved by voters in 2004 through Proposition H to install bike racks atThe City’s middle and high schools, according to commission staffer Kevin Liao. That proposal was approved, but Prop. H spending has been frozen until Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s revised budget comes out in May.

Over the years, reasons for the lack of bike racks have become almost like urban legend.

“Some say it’s liability, that kids are going to bump into each other and sue, or that bikes will be stolen,” said Andy Thornley, program manager for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Sanchez acknowledged that the liability issue loomed large in many minds, but he sees it as minor.

“I think we can avoid that by posting a disclaimer. If other districts are able to have bike racks, it’s probably something we can do,” Sanchez said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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