When Jen Savitch wanted a place for her son to lock up his bike on Hillside School property, she learned that principal Michael Chiles did not want kids biking to Hillside.
Savitch, who subsequently organized a bike protest on June 20, says Chiles told her the 1993 death of a Hillside student was the reason.
“Mr. Chiles and I share our concern of safety regarding biking to Hillside. Mr. Chiles expressed to me as a big part of his concern, a child that died biking to Hillside school about 20 years ago. He said a tree was planted after her death on Hillside property, and the bike ban began,” says Savitch.
In an article published the day after a “bike-in” at Hillside with support from Bike&Walk Montclair, superintendent Frank Alvarez told the Montclair Times Chiles has agreed that if parents want to allow their children to bike to school that would be “acceptable.” Alvarez said Chiles had discouraged students from riding their bikes due to traffic safety reasons because of the school’s location at the intersection of Orange Road, Hillside Avenue and Church Street. In the June 21 article, the Montclair Times also refers to the school as the site of a 1993 accident in which Hillside student Kia Carnegie was killed in an accident while riding her bike to school.
However, police reports and a May 1993 issue of the Montclair Times both indicate that Carnegie was not riding a bicycle and was nowhere near Hillside School, when she was hit by a car.
According to the police report, the fatal accident, on April 28, 1993, occurred when Carnegie was crossing Bellevue Avenue on foot at approximately 8:04 a.m. after buying bagels from a nearby store.
“Whatever his process may be, safety in biking to Hillside remains my primary focus,” says Savitch. “I look forward to hearing from principal Chiles, to begin finding a safe and convenient location for a bike rack on Hillside property for the students.”
Chiles and superintendent Frank Alvarez have not responded to requests for comment.
According to Bike&Walk Montclair, The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program – an initiated township SRTS Task Force to get more kids walking and bicycling to school for health, safety, environment and community — helped Montclair Township win over $600,000 in grants for infrastructure improvements, increased enforcement and encouragement activities at seven elementary and three middle schools.