Thomas Harrison Kids, Parents Make Cycling A School Day Habit
Posted: October 6, 2012
A group of Thomas Harrison Middle School students bikes home from school on Friday afternoon. About a year ago, parents in the west-side city neighborhood near the school organized the group as a way to help their children incorporate exercise into their day. Now, 10 parents take turns acting as chaperones for the kids, who ride to and from Thomas Harrison most every school day. (Photos by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Erika Metzler Sawin (center) rides home with Thomas Harrison Middle School sixth-graders Sam Schaeffer, 11, and Sam Heie, 11, after school on Friday. Sawin is one of 10 parents who take turns riding with a group of students that bike to school.
And she has the farthest to ride compared to the nine other kids in her “cycling pool,” a group of city students who ride their bicycles to and from Thomas Harrison Middle School each day.
“It’s a good wake-up call, and I do get to sleep in more,” said Ana, 13, an eighth-grader.
Fifth-grader Isaac Sawin, 10, and his sister, seventh-grader Cora Sawin, 12, used to have to catch the bus around 6:40 a.m.
Now they don’t have leave their house until almost 7:30 a.m., just one reason the children have for wanting to stay bus-free.
Erika Metzler Sawin and Tammy Krause, both mothers of children in the group, organized the pool about a year ago to keep the kids who wanted to ride to school safe. The ride across West Market Street from the meeting place on Dogwood Drive especially caused concern.
This week, as part of International Walk to School Week, nearly 3,000 Harrisonburg and Rockingham County students joined the cycling pool in either walking or biking to school.
But this group has long known the benefits of biking.
Although the occasional heavy rain or bad weather prohibits the ride, the group is rarely deterred, and it’s been steadily picking up steam since it began.
Ten parents take turns chaperoning the ride. Sawin, who also rides her bike to work at James Madison University every day, is in charge every Friday afternoon.
“I think I’ve biked to work for [about] 20 years,” Sawin said, adding that she started doing so for the same reasons she still does today: leaving less of a carbon footprint and staying healthy.
“It’s trying to make [working out] just part of your day,” she said.
The children she guides through Westover Park and safely home have similar reasons for wanting to stay off the buses.
“It’s a good morning wake-up,” said sixth-grader Sam Heie, 11. “It helps the environment definitely, and I actually think it gets us to school faster.”
Fifth-grader Alex Neufeld, 10, said biking is easier than riding the bus, it allows him to stick close to his friends and it’s fun because he gets to use his “muscles.”
“It gives you something to look forward to after school,” said fifth-grader Sydney Plowman, 10. “And it makes you relax a little more.”
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