SVSU bike parking earns average-to-failing grades

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Amid a report with average-to-failing ratings for bike parking at local schools, the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union plans to consider recommendations regarding bike parking options.

"We will review the study [report] during budget planning, to move forward," said Katie West, public information coordinator for the SVSU. The results from the evaluation, which the Bennington County Regional Commission conducted, haven't been discussed in an official capacity, she said.

"We will look into it further, for sure," she said. The report will go out to facility managers and principals before the budget process begins. That process concludes in January, she said.

The report's recommendations, tailored to each school, include moving bike parking to a more convenient location, expanding the amount of parking available and installing a different kind of bike rack.

The parking evaluation came out of the SVSU's request to the BCRC to evaluate school bike parking at the supervisory union's eight schools, according to the report. Overall, in 61 percent of schools,, 10 percent or fewer students walk or bike to school in the morning on an average school day, according to analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2014 School Health Policies and Practices Study. The BCRC evaluation did not look at how many students bike to school, and it was also conducted over the summer when schools were not in session.

The BCRC report, dated September 2019, evaluated six of the supervisory union's eight schools, as Pownal Elementary School and Woodford Hollow Elementary School are on state highways and not safe for students to bike to.

Mark Anders, regional planner/transportation program manager at the BCRC, evaluated the quality, location and capacity of available bike parking at the schools, and graded them on an A-F scale.

None of the schools received higher than a C grade, and all use bike rack types that the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals recommends to avoid, according to the report.

Monument Elementary School and Bennington Elementary School received Cs, while Molly Stark Elementary School, Mount Anthony Union Middle School and Shaftsbury Elementary School received C-minus grades.

"The findings is that the bike parking is pretty bad at most of the schools, particularly at the high school," Anders said. "The high school was a standout in how bad the bike parking was. The bike parking there is so bad that I think it discourages people, students, from biking to school."

Anders said it took him a long time to even find the bike parking at MAUHS, as it is located at the back of the building. The school also has very little bike parking, with a rack that does not allow locking of the frame and can lead to wheel damage, Anders said.

MAUHS received the sole F in the report.

Since many of MAUHS students live within easy biking distance, the lack of quality bike parking seems like a "missed opportunity to develop good active transportation habits" among students, the report states.

In regards to the evaluation results, West said she saw "room for growth."

Anders said the BCRC compared bike parking at the schools with recommendations by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals.

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"There's a lot of professional guidance about bike parking," he said. "There needs to be bike parking that supports the frame in two places — that's really the important thing. Because otherwise, the bikes can fall over."

Lots of schools have older-style, schoolyard/grid racks, which make it almost impossible to lock the bike frame, he said. According to the report, four out of the six SVSU schools evaluated have schoolyard racks.

The parking should be also be convenient to the main entrance, Anders said.

"Ideally, you'd be able to see it from the main entrance," he said. "For example, at the high school, it's way out back. It's very, very inconvenient."

The report recommends post & ring and inverted U, ring bike racks, as they are less prone to unintended perpendicular parking and allow two points of ground contact, respectively.

In the report, wave and schoolyard/grid racks are discouraged. Wave racks are not intuitive or user-friendly, and support the bike frame at only one location, according to the report.

The SVSU doesn't seem to be at the stage of implementing recommendations, West said.

"This is a positive thing, and I think we're kind of looking forward to exploring the options that the study kind of highlights for us," she said.

The SVSU health and wellness team, the physical education department and health teachers suggested looking into bike parking in the SVSU, she said.

"We noticed that there was potentially room for growth," she said.

Anders said the BCRC will be able to provide technical assistance if the SVSU decides to implement any of the recommendations.

"I know the supervisory union would like to encourage more people, more students to bike to school, and bike parking is a really inexpensive way to do that," he said. "It encourages kids to bike to school, and we know that active school transportation, such as walking or biking, increases activity levels, which has health and academic benefits."

Encouraging students to safely bike to school is a "small thing that could really make a big impact," West said.

The report references the 2014 CDC study, which found that found bike parking was one of three factors shown to significantly affect the percentage of students walking or biking to school, along with paid or volunteer crossing guards and promotional materials to students and families on walking or biking to school.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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