New trail makes it easier to bike to school

May 24 was “Bike to School Day,” and dozens of Bainbridge Island’s youngest riders rode their bicycles to school with their parents and friends.

Also, BI bicycle club Squeaky Wheels unveiled a project 20 years in the making: Dana’s Trail, a paved bikeway path between Ordway Elementary, Bainbridge High and Commodore Options schools — a route inspired by the daily commute of the eponymous Dana Berg, former president of the nonprofit.

“[Dana] was into bikes, but she was a communitarian at heart,” Squeaky Wheels president Paula Eber said. “She’d cut through the high school sports fields on her way to work, but the mud was a big deterrent and a safety concern. So she decided to build a trail.”

Berg, who died in 2015, was a fierce advocate for sustainable transportation. She promoted bike use and accessibility for all residents, including students heading to school. In 2004, her trail proposal won a $150,000 grant from the state and was later completed with an additional $60,000 from Squeaky Wheels with a grant match from the city of BI.

“It’s definitely a blueprint for collaboration and partnership with the city, parks and the school district, and all we can accomplish when we work together,” Mayor Joe Deets said.

The Ordway trail entrance, which abuts Madison Avenue N, is marked by a large boulder with a plaque honoring Berg. From there, a pedestrian or cyclist can travel between five of the 10 public BI schools without encountering vehicle traffic, except in crosswalks. However, the trail does not extend north past Sakai Intermediate School or south past BHS yet, which means kids who want to bike to school from elsewhere must make do with existing infrastructure.

Mike Mynatt, parent of Ordway second-grader Finn Mynatt, said that he almost exclusively drives his son to school, despite Finn being a strong rider — he has been riding since age 3 and loves taking his mountain bike on the pump track at Battle Point Park. “If the infrastructure was there, then absolutely we’d let Finn ride to school,” Mynatt said. “The concern is traffic on Madison.”

Fellow Ordway second-graders Donny Alonso and Charlie Potter also rode their bikes to school. Now 8, the two friends have both been riding since age 4. Alonso likes to bike to Owens Park and Potter likes to ride up and down his street. They appreciate paved roads for their smooth travel and were excited to try a new trail.

All three kids encouraged their classmates to learn to ride a bike. It can be scary, but “if you just try it once, you might like it!” Finn said.

“Don’t fall off — and go fast!” Alonso added.