What is Safe Routes to School?
Safe Routes to School is a national and international movement to create safe, convenient, and fun opportunities for children to bicycle and walk to and from schools. The program has been designed to reverse the decline in children walking and bicycling to schools. Safe Routes to School can also play a critical role in reversing the alarming nationwide trend toward childhood obesity and inactivity.
There are important reasons to consider participation in a Safe Routes to School program at your school:
• Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. 1
• Overweight or obese children are 70% more likely to develop diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis, all of which directly impact length and quality of life. 2
• In 1969, approximately 50% of children walked or bicycled to school, and 87% of the children living within one mile of school walked or bicycled. 3
• Today, fewer than 15% of schoolchildren walk or bicycle to school. As a result, kids today are less active, less independent, and less healthy. 4
• As much as 20 to 30% of morning traffic can be generated by parents driving their children to schools, and traffic-related crashes are the top cause of death and major injury for children in the U.S. ages 1 to 17. 5
• Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases. 6
How Safe Routes to School Can Work for You
Safe Routes to School can provide another opportunity for children and their parents to exercise by walking or biking. Even if students don’t live within walking distance, parents and schools can utilize resources like alternate drop-off sites and a “walking school bus” to create the opportunity. Schools or parents can contact us and we will help you set it up!
Imagine skipping the long carpool line in the morning and going straight to the opposite end of campus or a nearby church parking lot to park and walk your child to school. Spend those last few minutes together walking, talking and taking action to improve your health.
Instead of providing the example that it’s ok to sit, wait, and move as little as possible in afternoon carpool, show your children and other parents another way. Set the example. Parents can park a few blocks away, or at the designated alternate drop-off site, walk to school and wait for their student. Everyone will be better off for it.
Do you live within a mile or two of school, but are afraid to let your children walk or bike? Let us help you set up a walking school bus today. If we don’t teach our children that physical activity is essential to a healthy life, obesity rates will continue to rise, social and emotional wellbeing will continue to fall, and all while there was something we could do about it.
If you already let your student walk or bike to school, thank you! You have made a great decision that will positively influence their habits and health for the rest of their life, and they will be more mature and independent because you trust them to walk or bike. If you want help gaining access to resources to help you make this healthy lifestyle change, contact us today!
International Walk to School Day
International Walk to School Day is held annually around the world on the first Wednesday in October. (It’s observed on the second Wednesday when the first is on the first day of the month.) CARPDC and River Region Health Czar Michael Briddell encourage schools in our area to plan International Walk to School Day events. Please contact us for technical assistance in planning your event, and to find out more about who’s walking, as well as view other guides and resources, visit http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/
Your walk to school day event may be done in any of the following formats:
General Walk to School- Encourage students that live within a reasonable distance to walk or bike to school.
Alternate Drop-Off Sites- In situations where a majority of students are bused or driven because they live far away, finding an alternative drop-off location is a great idea. Private vehicles can stop a few blocks away from the school in a parking lot that has safe sidewalks connecting to the school. Parents can escort their students to school to assure that they arrive safely. Examples of alternative drop-off locations are: shopping centers, community centers, parks, and places of worship.
Walking School Bus- A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. If that sounds simple, it is, and that’s part of the beauty of the walking school bus. It can be as informal as two families taking turns walking their children to school, to as structured as a route with meeting points, a timetable and a regularly rotated schedule of trained volunteers.
Parents often cite safety issues as one of the primary reasons they are reluctant to allow their children to walk to school. Providing adult supervision may help reduce those worries for families who live within walking or bicycling distance to school.