Monday, October 11, 2010

Omro, Wisconsin: Bicycling Paradise

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Omro students walk to school with U.S. Congressman Tom Petri (center)
Omro students gather for Walk and Bike to School assembly
From our education director and Wisconsin Safe Routes to School Network coordinator, Jessica Wineberg-Binder:
What places do you think of when you hear “bicycling paradise”? Portland, Oregon? Copenhagen, Denmark?

Today, I discovered a bicycling paradise in my own backyard: Omro, Wisconsin.

Why such accolades? Omro Middle School has woven bicycling into almost every facet of the school day, with a noon recess riding program, an in-school bike shop, and physical education classes that teach bicycling skills. Over the next couple of years, the city of Omro will improve bicycling facilities and sidewalk connections near schools using an $89,438 grant it received through the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Today, well over 200 Omro students celebrated their school’s progress by walking and biking to school with U.S. Congressman Tom Petri and Bike Fed Executive Director Kevin Hardman. The “walking school bus” was more than two blocks long! Petri – along with Omro Mayor Bob Breu, Wisconsin Assemblyman Richard Spanbauer, Omro School Board members and other special guests – toured Omro Middle School’s in-school bike shop, its noon recess riding program, its PE-based cyclocross course, and the nearby community fitness trail. Credit goes to PE teacher Joe Horvath and Principal Paul Williams for creating bicycling options before, during, and after school.

Omro has utilized volunteer efforts and many small donations to build a comprehensive bicycle program that should be replicated across the state and the country. The Wisconsin Safe Routes to School Network, which I coordinate as part of my work here at the Bike Fed, will help Omro Middle School share its innovative ideas with other communities and inspire them to truly embrace walking and biking to and from school.
You can watch WBAY's coverage of the walk and bike event here.

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Bike Fed board Chair Elect Chris Kegel visits the Omro Middle School bike shop.

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Right to left: Bike Fed Chair Elect Chris Kegel, U.S. Congressman Tom Petri, Bike Fed Executive Director Kevin Hardman.

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