Durable Human (2 book series)

Administrator Racks up a Healthier School

In the shadow of what will soon become a massive edge city not far from Washington, D.C., a school administrator is making it easier for kids to breathe free.

Larry Knighten is dean of students at Joyce Kilmer Middle School, which is located within walking distance of traffic-choked Tysons Corner, Virginia. Recently, Larry noticed a problem. Every day, the single bike rack outside the school was filled to overflowing. Bikes were locked haphazardly to fences and trees.

It all started when the county transportation department built a little bridge over a nearby creek to create a direct connection to the many neighborhoods on the other side. What resulted is that many kids who had never been able to walk and bike to school before decided to give it a go.

Bridge opens in July 2010

But, rather than getting mad at the bicycle mishmash, Larry got creative with a few school system dollars. Not only did he buy more bike racks, he built a beautiful concrete pad to go underneath so the kids and the ground wouldn’t get muddy.

The school is so excited, they held a ribbon-cutting  – and even a U.S. congressman dropped in to celebrate.

A couple of student onlookers commented on how they roll.

“I ride to school because it’s faster than walking and, you know, it’s just fun because you get a little bit of exercise in the morning,” said one young man.

Another sees the practical advantages: “The bus is a lot earlier than I’d like to leave and if I leave on my bike I can leave later and it’s not that far. It’s really nice and I just think it’s a good experience to ride your bike to school.”

Sleep. Exercise. Autonomy. Just what pre-teens (and the rest of us) need to be healthy and happy.

Larry talked to The Durable Human about the benefits of biking to school, and Virginia Representative Gerry Connolly explains how strategic, small government investments like the Kilmer bridge can lead to less car traffic and a more livable community.

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