Schools districts everywhere - literally around the world - are celebrating a little-known but very important one-day event.
Today, October 4th, 2017, is International Walk to School Day. The special day was created to raise awareness of the benefits of walking (or biking) to school. Highlighting the fitness, community and environmental benefits, Walk to School Day also serves as an opportunity to promote safe pedestrian commuter habits and to provide communities with tips and enhancements to their preexisting commuter walkways.
Since the inception of Walk to School Day, communities have regained an interest in the activity, as it touts many local, global and environmental advantages:
Families and communities that walk instead of drive to school help reduce the amount of pollutants emitted by automobile exhaust. Vehicles emit fumes and hazardous pollutants that damage the ozone layer and also increase the amount of airborne dust, soot, smoke and dirt, harming the health of the planet and its inhabitants.
The event aims to educate children and adults by promoting safe walking and cycling skills. Drivers are also encouraged, through the use of signage and awareness building tools, to remain watchful for non-drivers. Additionally, municipalities that participate in walking events are often alerted, as a result of their participation, to safety problems along the routes that need to be fixed. Perhaps one of the greatest unforeseen benefits is the presence of parents and adults who participate in their children’s morning commute. Bullying or other forms of victimization are mitigated by the presence of adults. Some communities may decide to start walking school buses or bicycle trains as a way to have an adult presence on the street. Interestingly, some communities that highlight walking and bicycling activities tend to have fewer incidents of crashes.
Wouldn’t it be nice to encounter LESS traffic on your morning commute? Walking and biking reduces the number of vehicles commuting to school and, as a result, can reduce morning traffic around the school, making for an easier, less-stressful commute.
Sharing the walk to school often brings families, neighbors, and communities together. Friendships and partnerships are built as children and parents develop walking and cycling buddies and take time to chat with neighbors on the way to school.
Walking and biking to school also saves money! Pedestrian and bike trips reduce costs for the families, municipalities and school districts. While families save on fuel, local governments spend less on road maintenance, and school districts save on transportation expenses. Families may also see a reduction in healthcare costs, as walking and cycling improve health and fitness.
Independence and Empowerment
Improved streets and walkways enable students to walk and bike to school, making it easier for everyone in the community to get around, among them; parents with strollers, senior citizens, residents without cars and those with mobility impairments.
Improved walkways, bike paths and other investments to pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure can enhance community appeal as they increase home values and direct additional foot traffic to local businesses.
Health and Wellness
Walking and bicycling to school enables children to incorporate regular physical activity in their daily routines. Starting early in life forms healthy habits that can carry into adulthood. Regular physical activity has been shown to decrease the risk of obesity.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that youth get at least one hour of physical activity each day. Walking or biking to and from school may provide the regular physical activity necessary for all children, increasing the likelihood they become healthy, physically active adults.
This annual event provides numerous opportunities for communities to preserve their environment, esteem their residents, and enhance their neighborhoods.
For more information on Walk to School Day, visit www.walkbiketoschool.org