***May 18 update – At last night’s Weehawken Board of Education meeting, Board President Barsa announced that the bike ride policy has been revoked, stating that the intention of the original policy was about procuring bike racks and addressing liability for stolen/damaged bikes, and that it had been taken far beyond intent. An amendment was passed to this effect, as well. Neither agreements nor waivers will be required for parents to send their children to school on bicycles. The waivers that were already signed will be destroyed. A community member in attendance at the meeting asked the Board to acknowledge that the Town and other public agencies are still responsible for public safety, and President Barsa said, yes, of course.
It’s great news that bicycle racks have been installed at Weehawken Theodore Roosevelt School, as the racks will enable our kids to be more active, as well as cut down on traffic.
However, the letter linked below, sent home to parents May 6, is cause for concern.
The letter states:
- “Biking to school is permitted for fifth and sixth graders only. If you’re planning on allowing your child to ride a bike to school, you must return the attached form.”
Parents do not need permission from anybody to send their child to school on a bicycle, at any age, and should question the constitutionality of being required to sign any document before being allowed to ride on public streets, outside of school grounds.
However, the waiver that follows is even more problematic:
- “I agree to indemnify, and hold harmless the Weehawken Board of Education, the Weehawken Police Department and the Township of Weehawken….from any and all claims, actions, suits, costs…”
- “I intend by my signature that this document be a complete and unconditional release of all liability to the greatest extent allowed by law.”
In other words, by signing the waiver you absolve the Town and the Police Department of ANY legal responsibility should ANYTHING happen to your child while riding a bike on a public street, even if the kid gets run over by a town employee.
We understand that the impetus for the waiver is the dangerous I-495 overpass on Park Ave, where a woman was killed in the crosswalk just this last July. However, instead of making an attempt to wash its hands of all responsibility, a better approach would be for the Town to make the intersection safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Don’t sign away your rights – speak out at the Weehawken Board of Education meeting Tuesday May 17, 7 PM at the Weehawken High School.