Success Story: Omro Middle School’s Bike to School Day… and Beyond

Omro Middle School, in northeastern Wisconsin, has a history with Bike to School Day – it held its first Bike to School Day event in May 2010. But it didn’t stop there. Program coordinator Joe Horvath supplied students with year-round bicycling activities and infrastructure to encourage students to choose an active commuting lifestyle and active hobbies.

Bike to School Day

The Omro School District held their first Bike to School Day event in May 2010, in conjunction with bicycling activities during the school day. More than 20 percent of students biked to school. A bicycle train program kicked off for the event and continued into the 2010-2011 school year.

Bike Fleet

The school developed a cycling program using a fleet of more than 35 bicycles that is available to students during physical education classes, lunch and special events and trips. The bicycle fleet is maintained by the school’s “Young Mechanics," who are trained high school and middle school students working in a fully tooled bike shop. In an age when more and more U.S. cities are establishing bike sharing programs, Omro Middle School organizes and runs a bike share program itself, rather than through the support of a civic or adult organization.

Bicycle Education and Cyclocross

Omro Middle School has begun developing a bicycle education program and a 0.75-mile cyclocross course on the school campus, connecting the existing on-campus limestone surface trail and the school forest. The course is already used by middle school bicycle education curriculum classes, and the goal is to develop a cyclocross program in the 2011-2012 school year. Instruction in cyclocross racing has been offered the past several years during their middle school Career & Hobby Day held each May.

Annual Bicycle Field Trip

Every year, Omro’s eighth graders take two weeks of the bicycle curriculum in their physical education class. Near the end of May, approximately 100 students take part in an eighth-grade bicycle field trip with 30 teacher/parent chaperones. Students are divided into teams for a day-long scavenger hunt spanning 30 miles of bicycling.

Students begin by completing a bicycle safety quiz. Then they ride to their first stop, where a law enforcement officer judges how safely they bicycled. Throughout the day, students bike 2-3 miles at a time to these stations, where adult "Station Masters" assign tasks and ask questions involving bicycle rules and safety, math, language arts, social studies, science and art. Each station also has a healthy snack and water. At the end of the day, Omro Middle School awards donated recreational door prizes at a picnic. The school always raffles off a fully equipped bike, as well as smaller prizes for every student.

These components lead to a culture committed to year-round bicycling at the school – in fact, three students biked to school every day last year, through all seasons of Wisconsin weather.

“Omro’s bicycling programs have established a year-round, enthusiastic bicycling culture that helps students develop a lifelong love for and commitment to bicycling and to physical activity in general,” said Lauren Marchetti, director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School. “This culture is made possible by the students and by the program administrators that support them. Joe’s heart and commitment to the students typifies what a Safe Routes to School local champion is, and what he or she can accomplish.”