What do the US, Mexico, Japan, Italy, Columbia, Australia, Fiji and Nigeria have in common?
If you answered – Walk to School Month – you’re right! At least 42 countries have registered to participate in international promotions to get more kids moving. The official US Walk to School Day is being promoted for Wednesday, October 5, 2011, but we know that schools are organizing events all month long, and many participating schools use the event to propel a cultural and infrastructure shift for how we get around.
Here in the US, Walk to School Day is used to boost participation in Safe Routes to School. Thanks to federal funding, more than 11,000 schools throughout the US are now working to make Walk to School day every day. Schools, parents and students are working with city engineers, planners and elected officials to build more sidewalks, street crossings, bike lanes and pathways which make it safer and easier to walk and bicycle, both to school and in daily life.
In 1969, 48% of kids walked or bicycled to schools in the US, but by 2009 that number had plummeted to only 13%. During the same time period childhood obesity tripled, and traffic congestion grew around schools, negatively affecting air quality and nearly everyone’s morning commute. Studies also show that there are links between physical activity and academic achievement. Clearly, the simple act of walking and bicycling to school can help to solve many societal problems, and can show children how they can think globally and act locally.
I love the enthusiasm Walk to School Day events bring to schools and communities; they give such great momentum for communities to build upon. The Safe Routes Partnership is here to support your efforts and the growth of the Safe Routes to School movement. Check out our dozens of publications including our Local Policy Guide, and other program resources to help support your community to continue walking and bicycling the whole year through! Be sure to share the great things you are doing on our Facebook page with a chance for your story to be highlighted in our in October E-News.
As you’re walking and bicycling, you can help the Safe Routes Partnership earn a grant through the Clif Bar 2MileChallenge by joining the red team – the contest ends on October 31. If you’re not yet participating, please join for the final three weeks of the on-line challenge (it’s easy, quick and fun). If you are already a member, thanks and please join my challenge, just click on challenges at the top menu bar and search for the keyword SAFE to find my SAFEROUTES2EVERYWHERE challenge – the RED TEAM gets lots of extra points when you join or create a challenge.
Congratulations and thank you to everyone who is walking and bicycling more often. Our movement is growing and thriving on people power, and each one of you is making a difference.
-Deb Hubsmith is the Director of the Safe Routes Partnership, a network of more than 550 organizations.The Safe Routes Partnership advocates for safe walking and bicycling to and from schools, and in daily life, to improve the health and well being of America’s children and to foster the creation of livable, sustainable communities.