Families are busy and it’s often hard to make a change in daily routines; however, many parents are willing to let their children participate in special events such as a “Walk and Bike to School Day”. Special events are one form of an encouragement program and provide a way for families to break their routines and try something new. When a majority of the school participates in a special event, it can create a snapshot of what life could look like if every day was a “Walk and Bike to School Day.”
Contests, which can foster individual and classroom competition, also help to get kids out of cars and onto feet and bikes. Some schools run contests such as the “Frequent Rider Miles Program” where kids track how they come to school and receive points for “pollution free” miles. Other contests such as Walk and Bike Across America encourage classrooms to track the overall number of miles the children have covered by walking and bicycling, and then to plot the distances consecutively on a map. The exercise results in a math lesson, and can become a history lesson as student can virtually “visit” the locations on the map that they visit.
Special events and contests have been proven effective in inspiring students, parents, elected officials and school leaders to try something new, which often results in the development of ongoing programs to encourage walking and bicycling. Other successful encouragement programs facilitate ways for parents to walk and bicycle with groups of children who live together in a neighborhood. Through the formation of “walking school buses” and “bike trains,” parents can take turns transporting groups of children eliminating many parental fears of walking and bicycling by ensuring a supervised commute and creating strong community cooperation.