Oceano Elementary is the most bike-friendly school in the entire country, according to a cycling advocacy group.
The League of American Bicyclists on Thursday named Oceano Elementary a Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Business, making it the first K-12 school in the United States to receive the group’s highest level of recognition.
Teacher Jim DeCecco, who organizes many of the school’s bike activities, said Thursday that he and his students were “very excited” to be recognized.
“Just the fact that you can put ‘No. 1’ next to Oceano is a big thing in their eyes,” he said. “ ‘No. 1’ and ‘Oceano’ just has a nice ring to it.”
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The school was one of 59 awardees announced by the league, which annually recognizes businesses and groups that play a role in “making the country a safer, happier and more sustainable place to live and work” through bicycle-friendly programs, according to a news release.
The league also named two silver-level high schools, one silver-level elementary school and one silver-level public school district.
Oceano Elementary was recognized for its monthly bike-to-school days, after-school bike club, bike cleaning and maintenance opportunities at the school, free or loaned bikes for students to participate in activities, and bike safety instruction every month.
“My favorite thing about learning about bikes here is it’s safe,” fifth-grader Yovanny Mendoza said Thursday. “I ride my bike to school because it’s safe, it doesn’t cost gas, and if people don’t use cars, you prevent global warming.”
Mendoza said some of the tips he’s learned during bike lessons at school are to always ride on the right side of the road and make eye contact with drivers so they can see you.
DeCecco credited “great principals” and help from local transportation organizations and the community for much of the school’s success in promoting bike awareness and safety.
“We as a school go out of our way to emphasize becoming bike-aware and bike-safe to the kids,” he said.
DeCecco said other schools in the county are also following suit: two years after adding its bike safety track that teaches children the proper way to navigate streets on a bicycle, Atascadero Unified School District is looking into adding similar tracks at its elementary schools as well.
“We were the first in the county, but by this summer we won’t be the only,” he said. “And that’s great — it’s all about making kids bike-safe. The more people we have on bikes, studies have shown, the safer it is for everyone. Our community is going to be better for it.”