The journey from Key West to San Francisco takes about 6 hours by plane, or 3 days by car. Jane Ward, Jeanie and Chelsea Ward-Waller, and Stephanie Palmer are completing the trek of more than 5,000 miles in a little less than 3 months--on their bicycles.
At the National Bike Summit last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Jane's husband and Jeanie and Chelsea's father, Stephen Waller. Stephen told me about the inspiring journey that these four women embarked upon to support the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.
Jeanie, an avid cyclist and triathlete, first came up with the idea to ride across the country. "I wanted to bike across the country for a cause that I really cared about," she says.
An environmental science teacher in West Virginia, Jeanie decided to take a semester off and make this dream a reality. She planned a 5,500 mile route through 13 states and 20 major cities to raise $25,000 and create awareness for the League of American Bicyclists and Safe Routes to School.
Both Jeanie and Jane rode their bikes to school as children. "Active commuting, starting early in childhood can become a lifelong habit," Jane says. "Children who exercise on the way to school and during the school day, do better in school."
So Congress established the national Safe Routes to School program. Since then, local, state, and national efforts to increase safe walking and bicycling for America's schoolchildren have multiplied across the country, and--with support from our National Center for Safe Routes to School--they are thriving.
Along the way, the intrepid cyclists have stopped by schools and given presentations on bike safety and riding to school.
These women are obviously dedicated to their cause, but they've also found time to have some fun. Today, for example, they're taking a day off from their grueling bike schedule to hike in Big Bend National Park in Fort Davis, TX.
While they're getting some well-earned R&R, I encourage you to visit their Ride For Safe Routes website. And, if you do visit the site, don't miss their online counter for miles ridden, sunscreen used, and turtles saved.
That's right, Jane, Jeanie, Chelsea, and Stephanie are not only promoting safe, healthy routes for our children; they're also saving turtles. And for all of that, I say thank you and please stay safe.
And if you want to get involved in or plan your very own bike to school event, visit Safe Routes because the first-ever National Bike to School Day is coming up: Wednesday, May 9. And a new website, www.walkbiketoschool.org, and GIS-powered Map-a-Route tool will be launched early next month.