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Bike to School Stories: San Francisco

It was only supposed to be a simple business trip. But for Dorie Apollonio and her family (pictured right), the ease of cycling in Denmark’s capital city enticed them into a whole new way of life.

“We thought that a short stay in Copenhagen wouldn’t change our lives — but it did,” Apollonio wrote in 2011. “While we were there, we fell in love with the hum of the city, a sound we’d never really heard before. And we fell in love with bicycles.”

It was a love affair shared by the whole family, including their two young children. “In less than an hour our kids decided they never wanted to travel any other way. We came back to San Francisco and bought bikes.” And Apollonio started a blog inspired by that experience — aptly named Hum of the City.

Over the past three years, the university health researcher has artfully chronicled her family’s biking experiences and provided helpful resources for others hoping to follow in her… pedal strokes.

Last year, she wrote this beautiful piece about the increased number of parents biking their kids to Rosa Parks — and we couldn’t think of a better inspiration for National Bike to School Day tomorrow!

We have a new bike to take our kids to school (the Bullitt), but the big news for us this year was the group of new kindergarten parents on bikes. They outnumber all the rest of us put together.When we were first assigned to Rosa Parks in 2010 I never would have guessed that these families would be coming two years later.

This year’s kindergarten parents came riding multiple Yuba Mundos, and at least two of them are assisted (it’s still San Francisco). There is a bike with a trailer, a real rarity in San Francisco. There are a couple of bikes with trailer-bikes for kids, and an eBoda Boda. And joining them in 2013 is a brand new assisted Xtracycle EdgeRunner.

I catch these parents sometimes when I’m riding up Webster from the south, and we make a little bike convoy. On occasion my son has reached over to the deck to zip up another kid’s open backpack while we talk. Parents and teachers in cars wave to us at stop lights, and we wave to families walking to school from the bus stop.

The kindergarten parents are such a cohesive crew that I am seriously considering replacing my beat-up, broken-zippered windbreaker with one of the day-glo yellow ones that they all seem to wear so that I can look like part of their posse. And historically I have not been a fan of day-glo yellow.

After drop-off I sometimes ride with another family whose route to preschool mirrors my route to work. On the rare occasions that I leave our son and head out before school starts, I have spotted Rosa Parks families coming down Post Street in the opposite direction as they head to school.

Some of the families with older kids are in transition. The third and fourth graders are moving to their own bikes, or sometimes a kid’s bike hitched to a parent’s bike with a TrailGator (there is still a lot of traffic in the city). Our son’s love of the Bullitt’s rain cover has temporarily postponed his desire to ride his own bike, at least while it’s cold and rainy, but I’m sure this will change as he sees more and more kids riding on their own.

Riding our kids to school on our bikes is still not typical, but at Rosa Parks it’s not exceptional either. The neighborhood infrastructure for bikes isn’t more than a bit of paint, but evidently this is enough. There are traditional bike lanes and sharrows on some of the streets near school, and drivers are used to looking out for bikes. Every morning there is a row of them parked along the fence at drop-off, in addition to the bikes like ours left at the actual racks. All aboard!

I remember reading about families with in other cities with neighborhood schools that organized regular walks and rides to school and thinking, at the time, how unrealistic it seemed for San Francisco, with its citywide school lottery. I was sure that it would never happen here, with families coming from all directions and every neighborhood. But who really knows what creates enough critical mass to form a bike community? I was wrong. And I couldn’t be happier.

Thanks to Apollonio for her thoughtful and inspiring blog — read more at!

And don’t forget to tweet your pictures from National Bike to School Day tomorrow by using the hashtag #btsd and @bikeleague!