Schools encouraged to celebrate Walk and Bike to School Week
Join children and parents across the region and the globe in taking a green way to get to school as part of International Walk and Bike to School Week Oct. 1-5. The Regional Safe Routes to School program has been working with students, faculty, parents and city officials and staffs to create safer routes for walking and bicycling; and to emphasize the importance of issues such as increasing physical activity among children, enhancing pedestrian safety, easing traffic congestion, having concern for the environment and building connections between families, schools and the broader community.In 1969, almost 50 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. Try a new approach to traveling to or from school, even if it is only one day a week. It can make a difference.
Develop strategies that work for you and your child.Walk a block, or two or three. This strategy is designed to reduce the number of cars arriving at the immediate school site, thus making that area safer for pedestrians and cyclists. It can be particularly effective for school communities where students travel a distance to school and are not able to realistically use other transportation options.Combined with ride sharing or carpooling, this can effectively reduce the traffic congestion at a school. If students are dropped off a few blocks from school, it is possible for them to join other students walking to school. If the students are young, the parent driver might be willing to walk the few blocks to the school with the children to ensure their safe journey to the school entrance.
The “walking school bus” originated in Australia and is a simple concept. Parents act as “walking bus drivers,” each taking a shift or two per week. As “bus drivers,” they simply walk a prescribed route, at a prescribed time, to or from the school, “picking up” children along the way. This allows the children the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of walking while parents’ time commitments and concerns for their children’s safety are minimized.In order to initiate a walking school bus, refer to neighborhood maps for safest routes. In some programs, the drivers wear specific clothing – a yellow scarf, an identity badge, baseball hat or vest. Bright colors make it easier for children to see the bus driver as well as making the school bus more visible to people driving cars.Walking and biking buddies involve friends from the neighborhood, or friends from the same class, making a deal with each other to walk or bike together to school. This is particularly effective for older students, as they support each other in making the decision to walk or bike and they enjoy the trip to school. Parents need to make sure their children manage their time well and are ready to meet their friends at the assigned time.
Develop a strategy that is good for you, your family and your community. Take it one day at a time, one week at a time, and pretty soon it will be a habit. Join neighbors, friends and classmates and walk and bike to school during the week of Oct. 1-5.For additional information, please contact New Century Transportation Foundation at 704-9200, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit one of these Web sites: CDOT Safe Routes to School Program – http://www.dot.state.co.us/bikeped/; International Walk to School in the USA – http://www.walktoschool.org; National Center for Safe Routes to School – http://www.saferoutesinfo.org. Cathy Tuttle is with the Regional Safe Routes to School Program.
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