International Walk to School Day is Wednesday, October 8: Event Decreases Traffic, Improves Health, and Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Deb Hubsmith, Director
Safe Routes to School National Partnership
Office: (415) 454-7430, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Boulder, CO – The Safe Routes to School National Partnership celebrates International Walk to School Day on Wednesday, October 8 as an important milestone towards creating full-fledged Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs. The goal of SRTS is to get more children bicycling and walking to school safely on an everyday basis.
Deb Hubsmith, Director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership says, “We’ve seen a drastic decline in the number of children walking and bicycling to school in the U.S. —down from about 50% forty years ago, to just 15% today. Walk to School Day can be a first step in reversing that trend. We encourage all schools participating in Walk to School Day to implement a year-round Safe Routes to School program. We also look forward to working with Congress to expand Safe Routes to School funding in the next transportation bill, as the program has traffic, health and air quality benefits.”
Congress provided $612 million for Safe Routes to School in the 2005 SAFETEA-LU federal transportation bill. Communities in all 50 states are now using this funding to construct new bike lanes, pathways, and sidewalks, as well as to launch Safe Routes to School education, promotion and enforcement campaigns in elementary and middle schools. The demand for the program far outreaches the funding available. By making it safe, convenient and fun for children to walk and bicycle to and from school, SRTS is helping communities find solutions to traffic congestion, poor air quality, and high rates of childhood obesity and related diseases.
"The number of overweight children in the U.S. has tripled in the last 30 years, just as children’s activity levels have dropped," said Scott Gee, MD., Prevention and Health Information medical director for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. "An hour a day of walking can help prevent childhood obesity, and Safe Routes to School has demonstrated success nationally and internationally in creating safe, convenient and fun opportunities for children to bicycle and walk to and from school."
The National Center for Safe Routes to School runs Walk to School Day. “Walk to School has been around since 1997 in the U.S., and there has never been a more pressing time to educate our children about the many benefits of walking to their health and to their planet," said Lauren Marchetti, Director, National Center for Safe Routes to School. More information can be found at www.walktoschool.org.
To support the SRTS movement at the national level, the SRTS National Partnership is working to set goals, share best practices, and secure additional funding for agencies that implement SRTS programs. The Partnership released two reports in September 2008 that show how local communities have successfully incorporated SRTS as ways to improve public health, and how state networks can create policy changes that create safer conditions for students bicycling and walking. The reports can be accessed at www.saferoutespartnership.org.
Additionally, the Partnership has launched the State Network Project in nine states - California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia - and the District of Columbia to bring together statewide partners to leverage additional resources, remove barriers to walking and bicycling to schools, and to generate long-term policy changes. In each of the ten SRTS state networks, there is a local school planning an exciting Walk to School Day event as a part of implementing a SRTS program during the 08-09 school year.