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Can one dad who cares about getting kids to ride their bikes to school convince a million kids to do it? Well, Jeff Anderson has had that chance – and why I’m featuring his story on Blog Action Day, whose theme this year is “The Power of We.”
Jeff’s goal is simple. He loved the independence and fun of riding to school and wants today’s kids to be able to do the same. At first, he rode only with his own three kids to their elementary school in a traffic-clogged suburb of Washington, D.C. But soon neighbors began to join in, so Jeff formed a “bike train” of kids, described on The Durable Human two years ago.
But still Jeff wasn’t satisfied that enough kids were walking and biking, so he and a few others from the grassroots Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling aimed higher. In only a few months, we had convinced the nation’s 11th largest school system (with nearly 180,000 students) to endorse International Walk and Bike to School Days for the first time.
This year, 40 Fairfax County schools officially took part in International Walk to School Day. For his efforts, Jeff has become a poster child for Safe Routes to School, a federal grant program which helps schools nationwide promote active transportation.
But wait, there’s more! Along the way, social media and the Internet created an unexpected synergy. Journalist and bicycling advocate David Darlington found out about Jeff and put a photo of his kids – fresh-faced astride their bikes – smack on the front of his expose, “Why Johnny Can’t Ride.” That caught the attention of Nickelodeon which was planning its annual Worldwide Day of Play (during which the network goes dark for three hours in hopes kids will get some self-directed exercise).
Thus it came to pass that on WWDoP 2012, Nick broadcast a piece on Jeff’s bike train narrated by his oldest child Carina, alongside wellness messages from better-known spokespersons Michele Obama, David Beckham and Apolo Ohno. A Nickelodeon Corporate Communications spokeperson tells me 1.3 million young viewers were watching. More kids will see the segment on the Nick website.
Yet, despite all the hoopla, Jeff still rides with his kids to school a couple of days a week and on a morning each month, rallies the troops. And, any time you should ask, he’s happy to tell you why: