Rebecca Fureigh: Students on Bikes by Stephanie Alting-Mees

Name Rebecca Fureigh
Age 18
Occupation High School Senior
Neighborhood Lives in Pacifica, attends Lick Wilmerding High School in Ingleside
Member since 2001
Why did you join the SFBC? I'd been meaning to join for a long time, mostly because I wanted to contribute money to an organization that was furthering bicycle advocacy. I'd looked at the SFBC's track record and seen that they'd done some really phenomenal things and were clearly making progress. And also the discounts sounded like a good idea!

You wrote an excellent letter to your legislator supporting the Safe Routes to School bill. What prompted you to write it? I received an email from the SFBC with a summary of the issue and a "Click this link and we'll send your senator an email" kind of thing. I've written letters for Amnesty International and I figure it's more effective for someone to receive 10 letters that have slightly different messages and different perspectives from different people. You know, so they remember they're dealing with human beings instead of essentially 10 copies of the same letter. So I just wrote a couple paragraphs at the beginning of the letter detailing my experience with it.

Have you been involved in bike issues at your school? I organized the Bike to School/Work Day last year here, which basically involved putting up flyers around school, and advising groups and things. Luckily there was an Energizer Bike Station pretty much across the street at City College. I got a pretty good response - not a huge turnout by any means. There were more faculty members that rode than students. Most of them had never ridden before and they were all standing there going, "We realize this is exactly what they want us to be thinking, but it's really rather easy! Why haven't I done this before?"

Is the school administration supportive of your efforts? The administration has definitely been supportive of bike clubs. In terms of biking facilities, we have one rack for 386 students and teachers - it basically holds two or three bikes if you're lucky and could be easily picked up and put in the back of someone's truck. And we have a metal shop right there. I mean, really, someone could just pick up a plasma cutter and there you go! But it's sort of a catch-22 - if we had better biking facilities more people would ride to school. But the school sort of says, well, we don't want to get better biking facilities until more people are riding to school. It's like the public transit thing. But some of the people I spoke to in the administration said they would look into it.

Why do you think so few students here ride to school? A lot of the kids don't know how to ride bikes and most that I've talked to say that's because they didn't want to learn on a big hill, or their parents didn't want them to learn on a big hill or in horrible traffic. Also, I think a lot of people think it will take longer to get to school, even though it won't. People think it's easier to have their parents drop them off. Also, I don't think anyone would state it this blatantly, but there is a bit of a "cool" factor I guess you could say, in that people want to look dignified - they don't want to show up all sweaty, you know.

How can the SFBC make bicycling more appealing to high school students? The first thing that comes to mind is sort of a yellow bikes program and I'm aware that those have had varied results in the past. Occasionally I fix up messed up bikes that people bring to me and I've considered bringing one in and just having it be sort of the communal bike, except that I'm not quite that trusting! I think that if people saw that it was useful for things like, well, on some days our lunchtime is only a half-hour long and if people want to go out and get food they pretty much have to sprint. If they had a bike I think they'd be like "Oh, I can get to the sandwich place and back and still have time to eat my lunch."

I think visibility is a really key thing as well. Unless students see other students biking they're not going to think of it as something that they can do. I don't think most people considered skateboards to be a viable transportation method until they saw someone riding one to get somewhere.

Anything else you'd like to add? One of the things I'm looking forward to about going off to college is that I'll be living close enough to campus and probably in a relatively flat area that I can just get around on a bike. I'm planning on getting an Xtracycle so I can carry my guitar and things. Most of the colleges I'm looking into don't allow underclassmen to have cars anyway, which is fine by me, because I don't really see why there would be a need.