Even Newt agrees: Let the kids bikeOctober 9, 2009
By Stephen Lee Davis
|Newt Gingrich at Manhattan Tea Party Originally uploaded by ajagendorf25
Raise your hand if you had former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich pegged as a staunch advocate for walking and biking to school?
A few days after schools across the country celebrated Walk to School Day, a middle school in Saratoga Springs, New York is in the news once again for their policy prohibiting students from walking or biking to school. Apparently, Newt Gingrich caught wind of their policy and wrote the school district a letter urging them to drop their policy.
Twelve-year old Adam Marino and his mother were thrust into the spotlight back in May when he chose to bicycle to Maple Avenue Middle School in violation of a current prohibition. Adam told the Albany Times-Union this week that biking has improved his health and his studies. School officials said the prohibition was to keep children safe.
Gingrich, the Georgia Republican who led the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994, heard the story and sympathized with Adam. He penned a letter to school officials, writing: “At a time when nearly one-third of American children and teens are overweight or on the brink of obesity, students like Adam who exhibit healthy behaviors should not be punished but rather rewarded.”
Gingrich’s support for the young bicyclist is welcome, but Maple Avenue Middle School’s concerns about safety shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand either.
County and state officials should be working to ensure that Adam and others like him have a safer ride, rather than just declaring it “unsafe” and giving up. The first story about Adam, back in May, pointed out that the school district hadn’t applied for any state funding from the Safe Routes to School program, which can help communities improve streets and add sidewalks to make walking and biking to school safer for children.
Does this mean we can assume the Speaker’s support for Complete Streets legislation and Safe Routes to School to help making walking and biking safer and easier for people just like Adam?