Peter Hodne

Commuting is an activity most people associate with adults in the workplace, but Peter Hodne knows that this is only half the equation. Children must make a daily commute to school, as well, and this transit can be every bit as tedious. He is in a good position to know. Peter Hodne has been principal at Highlands Elementary School in Edina for over two decades.

Fortunately, "there has been a lot of change during this time," Hodne explained. Now more than ever, families have and take advantage of viable alternatives to the car and bus. "Biking, in particular, is seeing more use as an alternate form of transportation to school." This is attributable, at least in part, to various measures taken by the City of Edina over the years.
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One is an investment in the Safe Routes to School Program, a nationwide initiative to evaluate the speed limits, traffic flow and street markings in and around school zones. Safe Routes to School ensures that these busy areas remain safe for pedestrians and bicyclists, yet still accessible to vehicular traffic. Nowhere are the benefits more clearly felt than at Highlands Elementary. Hodne's school, while in a largely residential area, is only a quarter mile down the road from busy Vernon Avenue, which sees traffic volume upwards of 10,000 cars each day.

Hodne also appreciates how the City's infrastructure has evolved over the years. "Not only are there a lot more people riding bikes - there are a lot more bike lanes." Here, again, Vernon Avenue offers an illustrative example of the progress that has already been made.

Further expansion of Edina's bike lane and path network is one aim of Edina's ongoing Living Streets initiative, a comprehensive plan to balance safety and convenience in travel, accommodate the community's economic and environmental needs, and offer ample opportunities for active living.

On this last point, Edina's future is bright, if Hodne's observations of student behavior at Highlands are any indication. "We strive to find creative ways to help kids develop the skills and attitudes they need to achieve their goals... Helping them understand the importance of an active lifestyle is an important part [of this]." Students have proven very receptive to awareness campaigns like National Walk and Bike to School Day.

"I feel stronger and energized when I bike," Hodne said, and he knows he is not alone on this count. However, Hodne is careful to communicate that biking is much more than simply a responsible choice for self and community. It is also enjoyable, and the perfect way to enjoy Edina at its best. "We're lucky. Edina is a beautiful community, and a great place for getting out and taking part in outdoor activities: biking, running and walking, too."

While there's room yet for improvement, as each school year draws ever so slowly toward its close, Hodne finds that this last is one lesson that practically teaches itself.