Leave the Car at Home: Parents Foster Healthy Habits When Kids Walk & Roll to School

May 25, 2010

 

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Today we're featuring a special guest blog from our friends at Safe Routes to School and the Active Transportation Alliance.



By Heather Schady, Safe Routes to School Manager


It’s
no secret: Over the past 50 years, walking and bicycling to school has
lost popularity amongst kids.  In fact, today according to the National Household Travel Survey
, only 13 percent of kids walk and bicycle to school, whereas in
1969, over 48 percent did.  The decline in walking and bicycling to school has
been linked to our soaring childhood obesity rates and increased risk of
diabetes.  Other studies have found a link between increased physical
activity and higher grades and test scores.

 

The Safe Routes to
School
movement aims to once again make walking and bicycling to school
safe, convenient and fun for kids through education and encouragement
programs supported by increased enforcement and improved engineering.

 

Aside
from state funding, many Safe Routes to School strategies are free or
low-cost and can be implemented while a community is waiting to hear if
they received funding. Here are some examples:

 

Kick
off a year of active commuting to school on Wednesday, October 6:

  •  Participate in Walk and Roll to School Day by telling children
    and parents to leave cars at home and walk to school. 
  •  Let the world know you are participating by registering your
    event here.

Ritualize walking and bicycling to school:

  • Start a Walk to School Wednesday program.
  • Encourage bus riders to walk at lunch or recess.

Involve parents:

  • Encourage parents to walk their kids to school.
  • Start a parent-led walking school bus or bike train.
  • Educate parents on safe driving in school parking lots.

Prioritize safety:

  • Hold a Bike Rodeo.
  • Invite local or
    state police to talk to students about traffic safety.
  • Educate drivers about the importance of safe driving around the
    school.
  • Celebrate Crossing Guard Appreciation Day on the
    first Tuesday in May.

Celebrate
your successes: 

  • Hold a mileage challenge.
  • Reward students who are logging miles.
  • Hold a golden shoe contest.

 

Implementing even just one or two
of these events or activities sends a message that your school values
walking and bicycling, and you would be surprised what an impact you can
make.  I am working with one school that began the 2009 school year with
only about 10 walkers and one bicyclist.  After hosting a Walk and Roll
to School Day Event in the fall and implementing Walk to School
Wednesdays in the spring, the school is now seeing nearly 100 students
walking and bicycling.  That’s truly amazing!

Take action now!

  • Register your Walk to School Day event.
  • Apply for the Northeast Illinois Walk and Roll to School Day mini-grant.

Thanks to Safe Routes to School for raising awareness of this important issue!