The Story Behind A BFA: Escuela Key Elementary School
So many amazing applications come our way from communities, businesses, and universities across the country seeking to join our movement to build a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone. On our map, you can find every current award we’ve bestowed, but what’s a little harder to capture are the things that make each business or community or university so inspiring. So, we set up a way for the advocates behind the awards to tell us more about the people on the ground building a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone. Let us know which BFA champion should be next on the blog »
Apply for Bicycle Friendly Business recognition by November 3rd for consideration in the next award round!
Today, meet Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) Escuela Key Elementary, a dual English/Spanish immersion school for grades K-5 located in the Silver Bicycle Friendly Community of Arlington, Virginia. The BFB program uses the term ‘business’ broadly to include any kind of employer or destination, and in fact, Escuela Key is among more than a dozen K-12 schools across the country that are certified through the Bicycle Friendly Business program. Escuela Key Elementary earned its Silver-level Bicycle Friendly Business award after applying to the BFB program for the first time in our Summer 2022 round and, as a two-way immersion program, by nature takes pride in creating a welcoming and inclusive culture for all.
In addition to working with local bike advocacy organizations like BikeArlington and serving on Arlington’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, Escuela Key encourages all staff, students and visitors to choose biking and other sustainable commuting options. Some ways Escuela Key encourages biking are great ideas for any organization: offering cash incentives for staff who commute by biking and walking, subsidizing a free annual Capital Bikeshare membership for employees, and providing information about amenities for biking in multiple languages. Plus, the school hosts a regular bicibus (also known as a bike bus) and Bike, Walk and Roll to School Day events.
WHAT DOES THIS AWARD MEAN FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
Our school is happy to be recognized for our progress toward encouraging biking as part of our multimodal transportation support for staff & students. Here’s a quote from Erin Aylor, one of the parents at the school, that captures why we do what we do:
“My three children, twins age 7 and a 9-year-old, LOVE biking to school with Escuela Key’s Bicibus! It’s such a great way to start their day with exercise and fresh air. It’s awesome that Key has so many bike racks (because on Bicibus days there are A LOT of bikes). As a grownup participant, I love that the critical mass of the Bicibus on the roll reminds Arlington’s car drivers that bikers, including little ones, are on the roads and that they should be bike-aware!”
It is also a testament to the work of our KEY parents like Gillian Burgess, who is a real champion of biking and our regular bicibus. Here’s Gillian’s advice for starting a bike bus:
“Start with a start location & time and route that works for your family & friends and invite the school along. As you go, you’ll figure out what works best for your community and will make changes. Remind the kids that (1) we’re all riding together/this is not a race and (2) they need to ride in a straight line. Make it fun: Music! Themes! Giveaways! Encourage people on the route to cheer for you!”
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO APPLY TO THE BICYCLE FRIENDLY BUSINESS PROGRAM?
We were encouraged by Arlington Transportation Partners to apply, as one of our goals toward encouraging more multimodal transportation. As a school under Arlington Public Schools (APS), Escuela Key Elementary School is part of the APS Go!, which is a long-term transportation demand management plan to support more staff, students, and families taking sustainable transportation options. The initiative has a goal of reaching a 75% drive-alone rate for staff [down from 88% in 2014] and a goal of reaching a 30% walk/bike rate for students [up from 22% in 2014].
HOW HAS BIKE CULTURE AT YOUR BICYCLE FRIENDLY BUSINESS GROWN?
We are seeing more opportunities to support staff in their bike commuting, as well as make the critical connection to promoting & supporting the student biking that already exists. A recent commute survey showed increased interest in biking and we already have some very active cycling families and students who cycle almost daily! Being designated will encourage and grow this connection and support setting a good example for students.
What Is The Biggest Bicycle-Friendly Advancement Your Bicycle Friendly Business Has Made?
Connectivity! Our school moved locations and we are now closer to bike trails. We’re located within 0.25 miles of the Custis Trail, part of the Arlington Loop which connects neighborhoods in the county, as well as the Bluemont Junction Trail, which feeds into the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail. These trails and multiple protected bike lanes make it easy for staff and students to connect with the school from transit or other commuting services in Arlington, VA. Our new building also has a staff shower & we now have a repair kit.
Anything You’re Looking Forward To For The Coming Year?
Arlington Public Schools hosts Bike, Walk and Roll to School Days with a focus on bicycling. These events encourage not just students but also staff to be models of biking/walking behaviors to help more people bike, walk or roll to school! This year, instead of doing a Bike, Walk and Roll to School Day, we did an entire month. We encouraged kids to complete a bingo card and everyone who did received a prize from the PTA. Approximately 50 kids participated in the bingo and many more said they walked/biked/took transit sometimes. We look forward to promoting biking through additional avenues, like in the classroom through lessons, and highlighting the fun that kids who are already biking are having (like the bicibus).
If you would like to see the story of your Bicycle Friendly Business on our blog or on our social media, fill out our form to tell us the story behind your Bicycle Friendly Business award, and if you would like to see your business earn the League’s Bicycle Friendly Business designation, apply today at apply.bikeleague.org or learn more at bikeleague.org/business. Applications for our fall round of BFB awards are due by November 3, 2022, at 11:59 pm PT.