kids riding bikes in front of school
Students from J.E. Clark Preparatory Academy rode their bikes, skated, and scooted to school on May 3, 2023, for the annual ‘Bike, Roll to School Day’ event. (BridgeDetroit photo by Jena Brooker)

The rain couldn’t stop Detroit elementary and middle school students from joyfully skating and riding their bikes and scooters to school Wednesday for national Bike and Roll to School Day.

“The ride was perfect,” said Collier “40” Hardaway, who led Detroit students from J. E. Clark Preparatory Academy on a spin around the block during the school day. “The kids love it. Rain, sleet, snow – they do not care,” said Hardaway, founder of Detroit LaneBangerz Bike Club, which leads weekly rides through Detroit in the summer. 

This year, approximately 50 students participated for the school’s fourth year of the event. There are 13 Detroit schools participating in the national event overall, according to Sherelle Streeter, a mobility strategist for the city. The school with the most participants will get 100 tickets to the Detroit Tigers game on May 14. Students also receive free bike lights and free bike repairs.  

The event, hosted by the Detroit Health Department’s Safe Routes Ambassador program, kicks off a two month-long bike challenge from the City of Detroit’s Office of Mobility and Innovation and MoGo, a nonprofit bike share organization. 

The bike challenge will consist of 15 events including several bike rides led by Councilmember Scott Benson, a skills class for using an adaptive MoGo bike, and bike rides led by Detroit LaneBangerz Bike Club. The challenge will conclude July 8 with a bike summit celebration. 

kids on bikes posing for picture
Seventh grade students help Collier “40” Hardaway, founder of Detroit LaneBangerz Bike Club lead the trip around the block for second grade students. (BridgeDetroit photo by Jena Brooker)

In addition to biking, Detroit’s Office of Mobility Innovation is hosting several ‘micro-mobility’ events over the next few months. Micro-mobility is a term that encompasses lightweight transportation vehicles that are smaller and meant for shorter distances, like scooters and bikes. 

This Saturday,there will be e-scooters for people to test drive at Adams Butzel Recreation Center. The office will also be participating in the Bailey Park Moves Mobility Fest on May 20. Across Michigan, thousands of students participate in the national Bike, Roll to School event each year. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proclaimed May 3, 2023, as Bike and Roll to School Day in Michigan. 

“Biking to school, work, and for leisure has a positive impact on health, wellness, navigation, and the environment” the proclamation reads. “In general, students are healthier and more attentive, traffic is less congested, and busing costs are reduced in schools that continually participate in Safe Routes to School programs.” 

Safe Routes to School is a federal program to make it safe and fun for students to use alternative modes of transportation to get to school. 

In the last 50 years the number of students walking or biking to school has decreased from approximately 50% to less than 20%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Preventive Medicine Reports

One University of Michigan study found that students walk and bike to school less due to parental safety concerns about the speed and volume of traffic, the possibility of crime, and weather conditions. 

It’s a cyclical effect – the more parents drive kids to school because of traffic, the more risk of traffic-related injuries and deaths. Traffic crashes are a leading cause of death among young children. Pollution from increased traffic has also been associated with lower test scores, and increased behavioral problems and absences. Low-income children and children of color are the most likely to be impacted by traffic injuries and deaths. 

Analyzing 2017 data, researchers from Boston University and Harvard University found that Black Americans had the highest traffic fatality rate per mile traveled and across all modes of transportations, and the disparities were even worse for biking and walking. 

Jena is a BridgeDetroit's environmental reporter, covering everything from food and agricultural to pollution to climate change.

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