On weekday mornings, if you frequent the separated trail along Middle Road in Bettendorf, you’ve probably seen him. 

He’s the one with black rectangular-frame glasses pedaling south — typically before 7 a.m. — toward Pleasant Valley High School. While most of his classmates drive to school, Sam Lundry opts to ride his bike most days.

“I like being able to exercise before school,” said Lundry, whose commute from his family’s home near the 53rd Avenue roundabout in Bettendorf stretches about two miles. “It helps you wake up a bit, and once you get a routine going, it’s not too bad.”

May 4 marks National Bike to School Day, and while some students such as Pleasant Valley's Lundry don’t need a reminder to get out and ride, area educators and cycling enthusiasts are encouraging parents to let their kids transport themselves to school on Wednesday.

Troy Carter, Safe Routes to School director for the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, said biking or walking to school delivers numerous benefits, including increased student achievement and physical activity.

“Kids that exercise before school tend to be a little more focused in the classroom,” said Carter, who added a lot of schools tend to have bad levels of air pollution during pick-up and drop-off times from idling cars. "Biking or walking also helps us reduce the amount of pollutants we put into the air."

While Lundry, who is in the 11th grade, drives to school in inclement weather, he'd much rather cruise to class on one of his bikes. 

“On days that I don't ride, I don’t feel as awake at school,” said Lundry, who works at Healthy Habits in Bettendorf and also competes as a varsity swimmer for the Spartans. "Most upperclassmen, when they get cars and have the ability to drive, they aren't too avid about riding to school, but I really just love riding my bike."

On April 25, the Iowa Safe Routes to School Program launched its annual punch card contest that challenges schools across the state to motivate their students to walk or bike to school for three weeks.

In total, 3,200 students will walk or bike to school as many days as they can during the contest, which runs for a total of 15 school days through May 13, Carter said. 

Meanwhile, Donnie Miller, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the City of Bettendorf, plans to give away about 400 helmets this spring during bicycle safety presentations at seven public elementary schools in the Iowa Quad-Cities. 

May, which is National Bike Month, should encourage parents to leave their vehicles at home and find a safe route for their child to bike or walk to school, Miller said. 

"It's about getting that kid out of the car for more reasons than just health," he added. "Unfortunately, we just never see kids running up and down alleys or sidewalks anymore, and a lot of that is due to fear-mongering parents."

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Jack Cullen uncovers different slices of life for the Quad-City Times. He previously covered the city of Bettendorf. When he's not reporting, Jack enjoys coaching tennis and exploring the outdoors.