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  • Thu October 06 2005
  • Posted Oct 6, 2005
Posted October 5 2005 Say your family lives a mile from an elementary school, and you drive the kids both ways, every day. Four miles a day becomes 20 a week, 720 over the school year. And say your sport utility vehicle gets 16 mpg -- we'll be reasonable here. That means you'll use 45 gallons for school trips. At $3 a gallon, that's $135, not counting what you burn idling in traffic near the school. Mark Horowitz suggests you keep the $135 and bike with your kids to school as part of an overall increase in cycling. Enjoy some exercise and family time in the process. "I'm not necessarily pushing bicycling to work, because that's a trip a person will make only if everything is right," said Horowitz, the Broward County bicycling and pedestrian coordinator. "But you can use your bike on shorter trips, maybe say to yourself, `I'll just take the bike to pick up that loaf of bread.'" To make it easier for parents, some bike shops sell trailers that allow adults to tow children along. Older children could bike alongside their parents or walk. Today is International Walk to School Day, a worldwide effort to plant the thought of saving fuel, decreasing pollution and increasing exercise by walking or bicycling to school. Broward School District spokesman Joe Donzelli thinks walking or cycling to school is an idea "any school would encourage, if the conditions allow it. You get more bonding time between parents and kids, and the carpool traffic jams can get quite extensive." State agencies estimate about 2 percent of Florida's elementary school children bike to school. Among them is the Dernier family of Plantation. Pete Dernier leaves his 12-mpg Ford Expedition in the driveway each morning as he bicycles 2 miles to school with his sons Bryce, 8, and Kevin, 5. Exercise and family time are their main reasons; gas is farther down the list. "But the funny part is that it's faster for us, too," Dernier said. He said his family can get to Central Park Elementary in 15 minutes by bike, thanks to a pedestrian bridge. Driving requires using the main roads, takes 10 minutes, "plus another 20 to sit in the carpool line," he said. Florida bicycle advocates acknowledge drawbacks to school cycling, including heavy backpacks, traffic, heat and rain, and whether an adult is around to bike back with the child after school ends. Pembroke Pines Charter band director Matt Dougherty is setting an example by riding his bicycle to and from work. He says he enjoys the ride. It even has prompted him and his wife to become a one-car family, saving them not only on gas but also on auto insurance costs. "[In] the world we designed here in west Pembroke Pines, for example, we're slaves to our car and have to use them to go almost everywhere," he said. "But it still breaks my heart to see neighbors who drive their kids a block and a half in their SUV to catch the bus. It just never occurs to them to walk. But that's America, though." By Nick C. Sortal, Staff Writer, can be reached at nsortal@sun-sentinel.com or 954-385-7906.

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