Family defies no-bike policy at Maple Avenue Middle School

Adam Marino locks up his bike at Maple Avenue Middle School last Wednesday, the first day of classes. Photo by

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The first day of school, already a happy and trying event for any student, saw a little additional stress for Maple Avenue Middle School student Adam Marino.

Marino and his mother, Janette Kaddo Marino, left for school by bicycle on Wednesday morning, as they often do in good weather, despite a phone call placed to students' homes by school officials, asking parents not to allow students to walk or ride bikes to school.

After a cold reception on Wednesday, local transportation advocates are rallying around the family, and plan to accompany the pair to school today in a bid to bolster calls for a policy change.

The Marino family had previously encountered trouble while cycling to school in May, when school officials informed them they were in violation of a school policy that forbids students from walking or riding to Maple Avenue Middle School. They rode anyway, noting that the family regularly rides for exercise and recreation.


Following the May incident, the school district charged a policy review committee to examine the rule, but the committee has not yet reached a conclusion. In the meantime, Kaddo Marino said she felt the district was stepping on her toes.

"I think it's my parental right to transport my child to school in the way I deem is appropriate. I think the district is usurping its authority by telling me that I can't," she said.

One section of the school policy states: "The Board of Education forbids the riding of bicycles by students to and from Maple Avenue Middle School." Another section also prohibits riding to elementary schools.

In an apparent contradiction, a third section states: "Secondary school pupils may ride their bicycles to school and shall park them in the racks provided."

The policy was written when the Maple Avenue school opened in 1994, and has never before been reviewed, Superintendent of Schools Janice White said.

 "At this point, the committee's work is in the final stages, and the board has not yet considered what, if any, changes will be made," White said.

While White acknowledged that the district does not have any apparent authority over how parents choose to bring students to schools, they do have a right to control activities on their property.

"The policy, when originally put in place, was put in place because of the location of the building," White said. "The rights of individuals to ride their bikes on Route 9 is their decision."

Route 9 is designated by the New York State Department of Transportation as a bike route.

Upon arriving at school on Wednesday, Adam and Janette Kaddo Marino were met outside by school officials and a New York State Trooper, who were on hand for the first day of school. They were informed that they were "out of compliance," and had a lengthy discussion over where Adam's bike could be locked.

"I was extremely bothered," Kaddo Marino said, "after reviewing the way we were met at the school. It was very intimidating to be met by these three men, one of whom was a trooper."

Kaddo Marino, who is involved in reviewing the transportation policy, said she knew she and Adam might raise concerns if they rode to school and left the decision up to him.

"Adam feels pretty strongly about it," she said. "I told him I didn't know if there would be an issue."

Still, even after their icy reception on Wednesday -- which ended with Adam going to school, his bike left locked outside -- they decided to ride again on Thursday, this time accompanied by a group of adult friends.

Friday's rain kept the bikes inside, but members of transportation advocacy group Saratoga Healthy Transportation Network sent a call to members on Friday, requesting that more cyclists join the Marinos for their ride to school today.

"I feel we must support and ride with Janette and her son, Adam, every morning we can until something gets resolved or until it gets too cold to ride," SHTN member Charlie Samuels said in an e-mailed message. "If it causes a ruckus, which it seems the school wants to avoid, then we win because it will attract attention ..."

Members of the group plan to participate, but SHTN has not yet taken a formal stance on the matter.

Although Kaddo Marino said she did not initially intend to make a political issue out of her son's commute to school, she sees validity in SHTN's adoption of the issue.

"If SHTN is going to rally around anything, this is probably a good enough cause. It's not just a school district, but a municipality that is quite resistant to making this safe for bikes, cars and pedestrian traffic," she said.

Caroline Stem, another member of SHTN who is also involved in examining transportation policies, said that while the Marinos' plan to continue riding to school will bring necessary exposure to the issue, she hopes it will not undermine efforts to examine district policy.

"It's bringing an awareness that kids should be able to walk and bike to school," Stem said. "If safe conditions don't exist, we should create those conditions, and if a parent decided to walk or ride with their kid, they should not be reprimanded for doing so."

Stem pointed out that while SHTN members are planning on riding with the Marinos today, it was not a formal action by the group.

"As an individual, I think it's very grassroots and makes a statement, but I personally want to work the formal channels as well," she said.

Doug Haller, another SHTN volunteer, added he hoped the policy committee's review would be meaningful and lead to changes.

"We're hopeful that they're going to progress a little bit, especially because of the movement throughout the state and country to get kids to ride to school," he said. "It feels to some of us that they are not moving forward."

Superintendent White declined to discuss proposals that may come from the committee on the bicycling policy, saying that work should be completed before it is discussed publicly. The committee will report to the school board at a Sept. 21 meeting.

In the meantime, White said the district plans to continue to work with Kaddo Marino to ensure that district policy is followed.

"We are trying to come to some reasonable understanding," she said.