Assorted stories and thoughts from the ongoing pursuit of a greener environment
as pursued by your locally grown Little Hawk, Eli Shepherd.
Just as health care reform, abortion, and the economy have been heavily debated in the presidential race as of late, City High has been facing some key debate points of its own; topping the list thus far into the year are locker grade integration, phys-ed woes, and student parking. Lockers are now assigned randomly regardless of grade and students continually struggle to find parking spaces, especially with the loss of use of the “orchestra lot” due to construction. One idea that continues to surface is that parking, just as lockers were, should be assigned based upon grade level. While I see truth in arguments from both sides of the debate, I feel that we should focus on alternate solutions to the issue, if not different issues entirely. In the next several paragraphs I would like to address an Iowa City cycling safety and awareness issue, and propose some alternative solutions to City High’s parking and physical education programs. To try something different I thought I’d try a direct approach.
To the students and staff of The School that Leads:
Bicycling to school is no new concept, but it’s advantages are both highly overlooked and highly underrated. Currently, anywhere between 10 and 50 students cycle to school on a given day; lower turnout usually being attributed to poor weather conditions. However, each day approximately 1000 students and staff who could be cycling to school, hop in the car instead. I won’t rant about it because I completely understand why many do not cycle; I didn’t bike quite often during my first two years at City High. However, as overwhelming evidence has continued to present itself as to the destructiveness and social irresponsibility of burning fossil fuels, as well as the price we pay at the pump and overseas, I have found it nearly impossible to justify driving to The School that Leads. While I understand that some have a bit of a distance to travel to get to City, I challenge all students and staff to do make the better choice; for them physically, for their wallet’s sake, and for the sake all of us and this world, and have some fun riding to good ol’ City High school. Save the parking spaces for those who really need them, there’s always space on the bike rack.
To the new cyclists of Iowa City:
If you are reading this because you are a new cyclist in Iowa City, first let me say this: Thank You. You are promoting physical and mental well-being, social responsibility, and an awesome activity all at the same time. I commend you. Now, being so awesome already is, well, awesome, but you can be more awesome, oh yes. Here’s all you have to do:
1. If you’re riding in the road, act like it.
If you are in the road, please, please, please obey all traffic and safety laws. When a cyclist runs a stop sign people use that to protest new bike lanes and restrict cycling culture’s growth, and you certainly don’t want that.
2. If you’re riding at night, use a light.
This is for everyone’s safety. Without a light you become nearly invisible to most drivers, many of whom don’t even see you in the light of day. Also, in Iowa City it’s the law. Light up the bike at night. Poetry.
To ICCSD and state policy makers:
Currently in the Iowa City Community School District, all students are required to take one trimester of physical education each year, if they have a full schedule then they must take early bird P.E., and if they are a senior, they may only get out of taking P.E. by taking a sport. That’s where we are at, right now.
While the idea of physical education is incredibly important, physical education is not quite what occurs in the gymnasium. In fact, it really should be called ‘physical activity.’ Classes consist of jogging in the gym, walking a mile or two, lifting weights, or playing games such as speedball or badminton. While these are all excellent physical activities, they do not help the overweight and out of shape population address their health issues, and they do not teach the general population how to fit exercise into their life, and certainly not that it’s fun. Due to P.E., I have in fact come to resent certain activities I otherwise may have viewed as fun.
Another issue many have encountered is that P.E. forces them exercise when they already do. Students in grades 7-11 are unable to waive the physical education requirement despite involvement in school athletics or other outside of school activities. I have many friends who run many miles in cross-country every day, and yet are required to run laps in the gym in place of taking another elective, or, in the case of early bird, in place of sleeping a little more. I am one who exercises on my own time nearly every day. I skateboard approximately 15-30 hours during an average school week, nearly double that during the summer. I still have to “learn” how to run laps before school.
There is obviously much to be improved with current physical education policy now withstanding, but the solutions are simple: allow waivers for all involved in outside of school physical activity, encourage cycling or walking to school by allowing a P.E. waiver for those who do so, and in the process of all this, teach kids that exercise is what you want it to be: fun. The secret to healthy kids does not lie in forced physical activity, 60 days out of the (school) year.
Cycling is fun, it’s free, and it’s good for you and the environment. Driving is maybe one of those. Think about it. Thank you.