Oct. 4 is International Walk to School Day | PostIndependent.com

Oct. 4 is International Walk to School Day

Cathy Tuttle

Join children around the region and across the globe in taking a green way to get to school as part of International Walk and Bike to School week Oct. 2-6 and International Walk to School Day Oct. 4.Fewer children walk or bicycle to school than did so a generation ago. In 1969, 48 percent of students walked or biked to school. In 2001, less than 16 percent of students between the ages of 5 and 15 walked or biked to or from school.In 2000, the United States joined with Great Britain and Canada to create International Walk to School Day as a way to reverse this decline. Walking and biking as a form of travel are great ways to get physical activity, reduce dependence on oil, and reduce traffic congestion. As much as 25 percent of morning rush hour traffic can be school related. Using biking and walking as a basic form of transportation is a valuable lifelong habit.In the United States, International Walk to School Day is expected to include 5,000 schools from all 50 states. Walkers from our country will join children and adults in 40 countries around the world.Kindergarten through eighth grade students in the Roaring Fork and Aspen school districts are participating this year. Walk to school events work to create safer routes for walking and bicycling and emphasize the importance of issues such as increasing physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, traffic congestion, concern for the environment and building connections between families, schools and the broader community. Each year, automobiles emit millions of tons of pollutants into the air, and these pollutants can be especially harmful to children because their respiratory systems are still developing. The increases in rates of asthma in this country are alarming. Over the past 25 years, among children ages 5-14, there has been a 74 percent increase, and a 160 percent increase in children up to age 4.Ideas for walking and biking before and after school Walking school bus: Work with parents in your neighborhood to take turns walking and biking children to school. Identify a good route that passes by the home of each child. Walking together saves time for parents who can’t walk their children to school every day and gives everyone a chance to socialize with neighbors.Park a couple of blocks away from school: If you live too far from your child’s school to walk or bike, here’s what you can do. Drive part of the distance, then park and walk, bike or scooter the rest of the way with your child. It takes about five to 10 minutes for children to walk a quarter of a mile or bike an entire mile. Information gathering on children’s travel patternsDuring the week of Oct. 2-6, children will be asked how they arrived to school, via walking, biking/scooter, carpooling, school bus or private car. On Wednesday, Oct. 4, students will pinpoint their home location to the school. This information will be used later this school year in community, neighborhood and school audits that will be completed by the Regional Safe Routes to School Task Force Teams. These detailed studies will be conducted in Carbondale during October and November of 2006 and Aspen, Glenwood Springs and Basalt in March and April of 2007. Project deliverables for each community will include Safe Route maps and a prioritized list of safe route improvements.Regional Safe Routes to School programs are organized by New Century Transportation Foundation, Roaring Fork and Aspen school districts and the communities of Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Aspen and Basalt. Funding comes from a Safe Routes to School grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.For additional Roaring Fork Valley Safe Routes to School program information please contact New Century Transportation Foundation at 704-9200 or visit http://www.newcenturytrans.org.For information on International Walk and Bike to School Week Oct. 2-6, please visit these Web sites: International Walk to School in the USA, http://www.walktoschool.org; National Center for Safe Routes to School, http://www.saferoutesinfo.org; and International Walk to School, http://www.iwalktoschool.org.Cathy Tuttle is New Century Transportation Foundation’s Bike and Pedestrian Friendly Region director.

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