by Liz Duda
Jan. 24, 2021 (Tega Cay, SC) With families across York County advocating for safe routes to their schools, one local school is touted as a model. Tega Cay Elementary School (TCES) students in the Fort Mill School District are fortunate to be able to walk and roll to school via sidewalks and a multi-use path.
When the school opened in 2014, TCES began participating in Safe Routes to School annual walk and bike to school days. These remain wildly popular and include the Tega Cay Police Department hosting Coffee with a Cop (read the October 2018 writeup here). Through a grant, the school wellness committee through Eat Smart Move More York County (ESMMYC) secured a new bike rack for the new school (read the September 2014 writeup here.) The school now hosts monthly “Family Friday Walk/Bike to School Days” and on any day with nice weather, the bike racks are filled. One family recently shared that they first visited Tega Cay on a TCES walk-to-school day, and were so impressed by how many kids were walking and biking to school, that they knew this special community was right for them.
Some days the sidewalks leading to the school can be filled with pedestrians and cyclists. ESMMYC and Tega Cay Healthy Kids share the following suggestions for families to keep all users safe.
First, it is legal to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk in South Carolina. But bicyclists must yield the right of way to pedestrians. It is safest to walk a bike across crosswalks, and on congested sidewalks – particularly if the rider is a newer, unstable rider. Caregivers should keep close supervision of new riders until they are comfortable that their kids know and follow the “rules of the road.” We all want everybody to be safe and enjoy walking and cycling to school together. We share more tips below.
This National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Kids and Bicycle Safety tip sheet discusses “Sidewalk versus Street Riding.” It says:
- The safest place for bicycle riding is on the street, where bicycles are expected to follow the same rules of the road as motorists and ride in the same direction.
- Children less than 10 years old, however, are not mature enough to make the decisions necessary to safely ride in the street.
- Children less than 10 years old are better off riding on the sidewalk.
- For anyone riding on a sidewalk:
- Check the law in your State or jurisdiction to make sure sidewalk riding is allowed.
- Watch for vehicles coming out of or turning into driveways.
- Stop at corners of sidewalks and streets to look for cars and to make sure the drivers see you before crossing.
- Enter a street at a corner and not between parked cars. Alert pedestrians that you are nearby saying, “Excuse me,” or, “Passing on your left,” or use a bell or horn.
This “What Every Kid Needs to Know about Bicycle Safety” blog suggests:
And please teach your kids to shout clearly, “Passing on your left!” or simply, “On your left!” before trying to go around pedestrians or other bikers. This can really keep your kids safe and help prevent those unexpected collisions.Smart Kids 101
Similarly, pedestrians need to stay alert. This includes recognizing that there are others around them – walkers, cyclists, scooters, skaters and cars. SC Safe Routes to School shares Tips for Parents Teaching Pedestrian Safety to Children. And Pedestrian Safety Journey has 5-minute videos to show to kids of different age groups. (These do not address crowded sidewalks but parents can use the information to start this discussion.)
Walking and rolling to school is good for the environment, community, physical and mental health, and the school carline! As we teach our children to bike and walk to school safely, we can enjoy “The Good Life” of Tega Cay together. And we can keep to the TCES mission of promoting teamwork, emphasizing character, challenging excellence and maintaining a student-driven focus.