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Urban Planet Weird Wednesday: US school suspends cycling students

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Weird Wednesdays on Urban Planet takes a look at obscure, absurd, and curious things about cities around the world.

At my high school (and most others, I’d assume), senior pranks were a rite of passage that always ended up with at least a little wanton destruction of school property — pulling the fire alarm has become so boring.

But last month, seniors at Kenowa Hill High School in Walker, Michigan decided to take a positive approach to the senior prank and organize a 3-mile bike-to-school parade for the last day of class. Walker police provided an escort to keep the cyclists safe and even the mayor of Walker joined in on the parade and handed out doughnuts to participants.

However, once they arrived at the school, the principal and other school staff chided the 64 students, suspending them and threatened to keep those involved from participating in the graduation ceremonies.

“If you and your parents don’t have sense enough to know your brains could end up splattered on Three Mile and Kinney, Fruit Ridge, then maybe that’s my responsibility. Get your butts home. You’re not participating in senior walk today.”

The story gained national attention that night, and parents expressed outrage over the students’ punishment. The school’s superintendant folded and allowed the suspended students to make up the finals exams that were missed because of the suspension and on the following day the principal issued an apology to students for her overreaction and scheduled another senior walk for students who weren’t able to attend.

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photo by Kevan



  1. I … huh … wha? 

    Does the school normally have a policy against students riding bikes to school? 

  2. There are schools in the U.S. where the students CANNOT even walk to school. They must be driven, by their guardians or school buses. No walking, no bicycling.

  3. What’s the ostensible reason for that rule, within the internal logic of the people who made the rule?

  4.   Back in the 1960s, during the Civil Rights Movement, policies were put in place to bus students out of their normal school district to other schools in order to balance the all white and all black schools that existed at that time.  Those schools were a result of almost 200 years of systematic racism in the United States which isolated most black Americans in school districts with low funding and little diversity. This was also due to the patchwork of suburbs around most American cities.  Where in Ontario, the province legislated regional municipalities in most large urban areas,  cities like Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and so on are and were surrounded by small enclave municipalities – some very tiny, who run their own school systems.  The wealthier suburbs had wonderful schools – the poor and usually black suburbs as well as the often black inner cities did not. Bussing was seen as a way of breaking this system – so students were and still are bussed for long distances to create artificially balanced schools. This started in the mid 60s at the same time of the rapid expansion of suburban America with car only suburbs and little or no transit.  Anyone who has driven any North American suburb both Canadian and American knows that walking or cycling can be dangerous because there are very few facilities for either.  I’ve noticed that in the US that there are many suburbs that have neither sidewalks or curbs along major thoroughfares – making it dangerous to not drive.  Thus the reaction of the Principal.  I’m going to guess that under normal circumstances (without a Police escort) that it’s dangerous to ride the streets of Walker Michigan because there’s no curb and the cars drive fast and furiously.  So, the Principal, however misguided, was no doubt legitimately concerned about the student’s safety.  Knowing that inexperienced riders without a police escort could result in a tragedy, she reacted – and clearly overreacted – with a strong response.  It’s a shame that the wealthiest nation in the world squandered that rapid growth period in the 60s and 70s to build the car based urban form in which a majority of Americans now live. Now with a declining economy and rising oil prices they find they really can’t afford the car-based lifestyle and that the optimism of the 60s and 70s has left them with a negative legacy.