Hillside Cyclists Come Out of the Closet Bushes

BY  |  Monday, Jun 20, 2011 10:23am  |  COMMENTS (20)

A handful of students at Montclair’s Hillside Elementary School learned a lesson in civil disobedience today when, with their parents — and in one case, also their grandparents — they flaunted flouted a rule of their principal, Michael Chile, and parked their bicycles openly in front of the school this morning.

Jennifer Savitch, who brought the issue to light last week and enlisted the help of Bike-Walk Montclair to send the message out to other cyclists in Montclair, pointed to a bicycle hidden under the branches of a dense evergreen to show how cyclists have been stowing their gear in light of the bicycle parking ban.

“I love to bike,” she said. “As long as it’s safe, I really think it should be allowed,” Savitch said. “Safety’s primary.”  Savitch’s son Luke, 9, a student at Hillside was part of the protest, along with his brother Ethan, a 7-year-old at Nishuane. Their grandparents, Susan and Hank Savitch of Ocean Grove, left their house around 6:30 a.m. to join the protest.

“It’s to save global warming,” said Hollen Gibson, 9, a Hillside third grader. “And to have a happy, healthy life.”

Paul Mickiewicz, fitness director at the Montclair YMCA and an active member of Bike-Walk Montclair, showed up in support of the cyclists. He said that he ran into Chiles at the Y last week and had a good discussion about bicycling at Hillside.

“I think there’s definitely an opening,” said Mickiewicz. “Bottom line, he wants to keep kids safe. All we want to do is help make it safe.”

The protest took place just feet away from a tree planted in the memory of Kia Carnegie, a Hillside student who was killed in a bicycle accident in 1993 and whose death is reportedly the reason for Chiles’s strong stance against cycling to school.


  1. POSTED BY oliver  |  June 20, 2011 @ 10:46 am

    You “flout” a rule, not “flaunt.” (You might flaunt your fancy bike, in this instance.)

  2. POSTED BY go123  |  June 20, 2011 @ 11:06 am

    I share the Principal’s concern for the safety of the Hillside children and my experience this morning showed that biking to Hillside is fraught with danger. At the same time, I believe it is the parents’ responsibility (and not the school’s, except when children are bused) to get their children to school safely. If parents choose to walk or let their children walk by themselves, they expose them to various kinds dangers they would not encounter if they drove their children. If parents choose to bike with their children, they should be free to do so.

    To make biking safer in Montclair, I would like to see a bike lane on one of the North-South avenues (North Mountain/South Mountain would be ideal). The area near Bloomfield Avenue is especially dangerous.

    How can we work together to make biking safer in Montclair?

  3. POSTED BY qby33  |  June 20, 2011 @ 11:08 am

    The way I see it…is that a parent can transport their child anyway they feel like it. If that means biking, then good for them! A healthy and economical way to get to school. The parent would know if their child can ride their bike safely enough. It’s the drivers that really need to stay alert and get of their darn cell phones. Seriously, that is the biggest hazard in this town! Every other car that passes me on the road is either holding their phone to their ear or checking thier emails/texts. It disgusting and how many accidents will they cause? Please start ticketing everyone Montclair police!! Please!

  4. POSTED BY tarkus697  |  June 20, 2011 @ 11:34 am

    As long as kids are taught responsible cycling, I have no issues with it. I walk down Walnut street to catch the train and during the school months, I always see this one kid riding his bike (I’m guessing to school) on the sidewalk and not wearing a helmet.

    Drives me absolutely nuts.

  5. POSTED BY TwinDad  |  June 20, 2011 @ 1:13 pm

    Nicely done, everyone. Let’s keep working on keeping biking a safe and supported transportation option!

  6. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  June 20, 2011 @ 1:37 pm

    good liberals in the making: the rules don’t apply to you if don’t like them.

  7. POSTED BY TwinDad  |  June 20, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

    Oh Please, ROC – this ‘rule’ seems to have been made by one person – who is exceeding his authority and doing a poor job of discussing it with his constituents. What part of America do you live in that you accept rules like that at face value?

  8. POSTED BY johnleesandiego  |  June 20, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

    Fight the Power! Stick it to the Man!

    So Proud of these kids standing up for what’s right!

    Oh yeah, Ms Right of Center, just remember that everything Hitler did was according to the rules and legal.

  9. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  June 20, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

    Whatever you think of this rule (and for the record I disagree with the rule) is a terrible lesson to teach your children to ignore it. Civil disobedience has a place in our political discourse but only in areas where there is egregious injustice and a serious restriction of someone’s rights.

    Teaching your children to disobey authority for trivial reasons simply because they don’t like the rule is a lot of what’s wrong with our society.

    It’s tantrum throwing.

  10. POSTED BY Bernadette Baum  |  June 20, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

    (Disclosure: I’m a parent of two kids at Hillside and co-president of the Hillside PTA. My kids and I bike often, mostly in NJ and NY state parks which allow for dozens of miles of nature appreciation, clean air and exercise. I relate a few facts here, of my own volition, to explain the school’s stand on this issue.)

    The principal of Hillside, Mr Chiles, has explained to interested parents at the school that his no-bikes-at-Hillside stance is based purely on child safety, after taking into account the traffic patterns around the school, the fact that cars are parked along both sides of the street at drop-off and pickup times (halving the lane width for regular vehicle traffic or for bikers), adding the walking kids to this equation, and considering the buses, too, that bring a majority of Hillside’s kids to school and have to navigate around cars and pedestrians.

    The principal does not prohibit biking; families are free to choose how they get their kids to school. The absence of bike racks reflects the school’s official no-bikes-at-school stand; and it’s not the only Montclair school to discourage biking for safety reasons.

    I hope this clarifies a couple of points which seem not to have been made.

    Interestingly, few kids bike to the local schools even when racks and a pro-biking policy are present. At Montclair High School (population of nearly 2,000 kids) mid-morning today, there were five bikes locked to MHS’ numerous bike racks. At Glenfield Middle School, there were two bicycles.

    For schools where biking is allowed, children would still need to traverse the town to get to school, and Montclair isn’t exactly safe for bikers (that’s why we see so few of them).

    The inclusion of biking lanes everywhere, and possibly some reconfiguration of streets, would go a long way towards improving safety for those on two wheels. This, however, is a job for our mayor and not for a school principal.

  11. POSTED BY kay  |  June 20, 2011 @ 6:36 pm

    Tarkus, I think I know who that kid is! I can’t speak for the lack of a helmet, and I will be sure to pass it on… but as for the sidewalk, I’ll bet it’s because he’s terrified of the traffic zooming down Walnut. (I know I would be!)

  12. POSTED BY go123  |  June 20, 2011 @ 7:52 pm

    From go123 Junior: I think everybody should ride their bikes if its a reasonable distance. We should do this to help global warming and poulution. Start ridinig your bikes to school!

  13. POSTED BY saras  |  June 20, 2011 @ 8:07 pm

    Bernadette- What other schools have a no biking policy? I find it surprising that a principal can make such a policy at a public school. If the area surrounding Hillside is that dangerous, why isn’t he lobbying the town for better safety measures?

    I understand that it’s not a good idea to teach your kids to disobey the rules, but this passive-aggressive policy should have been overturned by Alvarez.

  14. POSTED BY Georgette Gilmore  |  June 20, 2011 @ 8:20 pm

    According to Dr. Clarence Hoover in a letter to Jenn Savitch and included in our original story about the bike/Hillside issue:

    “There is no district policy regarding how parents choose to bring their children to school or take them home after school.”


    Therefore, it appears that there are no schools that have a “no biking policy.”

  15. POSTED BY bigmama  |  June 20, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

    Instead of worrying about bikers, why doesn’t the principal ban car transport to Hillside as it seems to be the CAR DRIVERS who are the problem at that school: double parking, parking in no-parking zones, using the Pre-K drive to zip through, stopping in the middle of the street to chat, etc. It is a major cluster @#@$ there and I would bike too to avoid driving into it. Or, the principal could implore MPD to come and aggressively ticket the dangerous drivers/parkers in that area so that they reform their ways. Put back the bike racks and get the drivers in line.

  16. POSTED BY jensavitch  |  June 20, 2011 @ 11:12 pm

    Respectfully- when you type that principal Chiles’ has a “no-bikes-at-Hillside stance” and “the principal does not prohibit biking” in the same reply leads me to believe you may not be looking at the bigger picture. Do you also agree with him coming to my house to see if I am feeding my children correctly in the morning? Of course not.
    There is a safety issue, yes, but unfortunately it’s not his decision to make.
    Children are allowed to use bikes on sidewalks. I have sidewalks the entire way. If you don’t have sidewalks, or a helmet, or have a child who doesn’t have comfort and control, please don’t bike. If you are against biking, or uncomfortable biking from where you live, please don’t bike. ( It reminds me of a bumper sticker I once saw… Against abortion? Don’t have one).
    So when I have made a decision to bike with my capable third grader, on sidewalks, and walking when it gets close to the school – I would like to feel proud of my son and happy that we are teaching him well and not as if it was a disobedient act, hiding my bike away to please a principal. I would like my child to lock his bike in a bike rack at the school, and head off to learn.
    I understand Mr. Chiles wants to protect his students, and I understand that his concern stems from the death of a child 18 years ago which started the ban on biking to Hillside. He has the right intentions and a good heart, however misdirected. It is all about safety. Bike walk Montclair organization has offered their services of assembly or programs to Hillside in order to teach all of us safer ways to bike.

    I don’t know of any other school in this system that discourages biking and refuses bikes on the property. Which ones are they?

  17. POSTED BY townie  |  June 21, 2011 @ 10:06 am

    No biking please. Hillside is not the High School or even a Middle School. The children there are 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. Compared to the other primary schools (Nishuane, Edgemont, Watchung, Bradford, Northeast) where one can come up with relatively quiet routes, this area is far more congested, traffic is worse and less predictable.

  18. POSTED BY hollykorus  |  June 21, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

    Mr. Chiles has a responsiblilty to to TEACH not to parent. Shame on him and the PTA for not stepping up to the plate and taking this as an oppurtunity to TEACH and LEARN. Instead of working with parents and the town to make the area safer let’s just make some new rule….not a written rule mind you….no just a verbal rule and scare parents into not challenging it.

    This is a time to TEACH and LEARN not to LEGISLATE and DICTATE!!!!!

    Chiles stop pushing fear and be an educator for goodness sakes!!!!!!!

  19. POSTED BY jsavitch  |  June 21, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

    Dear ROC and Ms. Baum:

    At the outset, I should remind you that I’m the accompanying-cyclist-parent of one of the kids in the picture and Jen’s spouse.

    Please note that Mr. Chiles did state more than once that cycling is ‘prohibited’ to Hillside. As such, there really was no choice but to seek rule change. We insist that our son respect school rules and Mr. Chiles in particular. We also want to teach him to be an active member of the community and leave a positive impact in Montclair.

    ROC, that is exactly why we’ve gone to the Principal and the Board–so he doesn’t “ignore” authority. The lesson here is change the “rule” not circumvent it. And by the way, up until the Board of Ed engaged, there was no rule we could find.

    As for the ‘chicken and egg’ logical fallacy of not being able to ride bikes to school because there are too many cars, I still wonder what is so unique about Hillside that we can’t find a safe path for riders. I am still not aware of any other school in Montclair that won’t accommodate a bike.

    I can certainly accept that some parents wouldn’t want to ride to school (or walk, or bus…) but I just can’t accept that we don’t have that choice for ourselves.

  20. POSTED BY macky  |  June 22, 2011 @ 5:52 pm

    Those who are motivated to create change around bike safety in this town will need to familiarize themselves with the administrative details of what it takes to get bike lanes striped in etc. If people contact the town council and the city engineer voicing their support for bike lanes, that would be a great start.

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