Reconnecting to the FUN of Walking to School

Jeanie Ward-WallerI spend a lot of my working hours getting into the weeds of transportation project funding and implementation, and working with our state network to sort out the complexities of state policy and bureaucracy. So when events such as Walk to School Day roll around I relish the opportunity to take a step back from my routine work and reconnect to the vision of our movement for Safe Routes to School – to improve the health and well-being of America's children.

Walk and Bike to School Month and International Walk to School Day motivate and inspire schools around the country to get excited about Safe Routes to School, and not just for the students, parents, teachers and school administrators that participate. Walk to School Day also gives passionate advocates a refreshing reminder of why we do the work we do – because walking (and bicycling) to school is fun and good for you!

489 schools in California participated in Walk to School Day on October 3, 2012! One of those events took place a few miles from my home at Bannon Creek Elementary School in the South Natomas neighborhood of Sacramento.  I woke up a bit earlier than usual on October 3 to bike the few miles to South Natomas on the American River Trail, enjoying the crisp morning air and lovely sunrise. I joined several local elected officials to walk with hundreds of kids to Bannon Creek ES that morning, all talking, smiling and laughing with teachers and friends. I was reminded of how fun it was to walk to and from school with my friends and sisters when I was in school, and that same joy was reflected in the faces of the Bannon Creek students.

Re-energized by Walk to School Day, I turn my attention back to policy work with a fresh reminder that our network’s advocacy is critical to sustaining funding for program events like Walk to School Day. With our support, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) approved a proposal last month to continue to fund Safe Routes to School in the upcoming year at the same level as in 2012, despite the decrease nationwide in bicycle and pedestrian funding. This is a big policy win for our California network, and demonstrates that decision-makers in our state clearly recognize the benefits of Safe Routes to School. More schools are benefitting from Safe Routes to School and participating in Walk to School Day every year, but with 10,000 public schools in California, we clearly still have a lot of work ahead to meet the need statewide. Walking to school on October 3 renewed my enthusiasm to keep working hard so that every child in California can experience the fun of walking and bicycling to school!