Last year, more than 40 countries participated in International Walk to School Day. In Colorado, 145 schools signed up on the national website for the event, www.walkbiketoschool.org, including two Fort Collins schools.
We hope to see many more local schools signing up to participate in this year’s event. If your school isn’t already registered, talk to your principal or wellness team to see if it’s possible to plan a celebration of walking on that day.
Generally speaking, most children in elementary school who live within a mile of school are considered capable of walking to and from school, given that there is a safe route to do so. A safe route would include multi-use trails (if available), low-traffic streets with sidewalks, and safe ways to cross busy roadways (such as overpasses/underpasses, signalized crosswalks and locations with crossing guards).
It’s also recommended that young children who walk to school do so with an adult or in a group of children rather than alone. Of course, older students (in middle school and high school) typically can walk greater distances and much more independently.
If you normally need to drive your child to school but would like to participate in International Walk to School Day, consider parking in a safe, convenient location some distance from your child’s school and walk with your child the rest of the way. Or get your child involved in a “walking school bus” with other students and parents so he or she can walk with a group. When you see how enjoyable it is, you might consider making a remote drop-off part of your normal routine (while also helping cut down on congestion in front of your school at arrival time).
It is fascinating to see how the goals of the international event (listed online at www.iwalktoschool.org), featuring such diverse countries as Canada, Cuba, Kenya, Nepal, Belgium, Fiji, Spain and Sweden, fit well with some of our city’s own goals. The international goals are:
- Encourage physical activity by teaching children the skills to walk safely, how to identify safe routes to school and the benefits of walking
• Raise awareness of how walkable a community is and where improvements can be made
• Raise concern for the environment
• Reduce crime and take back neighborhoods for people on foot
• Reduce traffic congestion, pollution and speed near schools
• Share valuable time with local community leaders, parents and children
Research shows that students who walk or bike to school can benefit from increased physical activity, better behavior and even better grades. So how about walking to school on Oct. 8, and then keep it going throughout the school year!
Nancy Nichols is the Safe Routes to School coordinator for the City of Fort Collins (fcgov.com/saferoutes) as well as a Bicycle Ambassador and member of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Education Coalition (bpeclarimer.org).