I’m a kindergarten parent, so today was my first day participating in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School District’s annual Bike and Walk to School Day. We met a crew of eager bikers at the top of Greensboro Street, and were joined by Council Member Sammy Slade for the bike to Carrboro Elementary. Another group led by Mayor Damon Seils and Council Member Susan Romaine walked and biked over from Wilson Park Playground.

My kindergartener is pretty new to riding without training wheels. So when we rode down Hillsborough Street, where cars passed by pretty close – I rode on the outside so he would feel comfortable. Still, cars were very, very close to us — and the bike lane is unprotected.

We live about 9 blocks from school which is perfect biking distance — not too far and just far enough where biking makes sense. I’m not a bike commuter and I wouldn’t say I’m super comfortable biking along roads in Carrboro — but this scenario makes sense for our family to not drive.

Some slight tweaks could make biking and walking to school easier in Carrboro and Chapel Hill, especially on the one day of the year where we celebrate these modes of transportation.

On Bike to School Day, we should temporarily close the streets

At Carrboro Elementary, the vast majority of bikers and walkers hit Hillsborough Street between 7:30am and 7:50am. The same is true for other elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools — there’s usually one street that the majority of bikers and walkers take, and it’s during a very small window of time. Here’s what this could look like at my elementary school:

Shelton Street

More bike racks?

This is a great problem to have — today there were more bikers than bike racks, so we locked our kindergartener’s bike to itself the way I’m told they do in the Netherlands. (Very chic!) I only knew to do this because an experienced biker told me to do that when I couldn’t find a bike parking spot.

Advocating for more protected, paved paths

The biggest hurdle for me was feeling comfortable biking along Greensboro and Hillsborough where cars zip by. I’ll admit — I’m still not comfortable doing this and wish the lanes were protected — or that we had protected, paved greenways connecting all of the schools and neighborhoods in our school district. I’m hopeful about some efforts that are underway to provide more of those so that more kids can bike and walk safely to school!

Thank you to the Town of Carrboro and our town’s leaders for championing this day. And thank you to Heidi Perov who led our group of bikers safely to school!

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Melody Kramer is a Peabody-award winning journalist whose work has appeared on NPR and member stations around the country, as well as in publications ranging from National Geographic to Esquire Magazine....