By: Safe Routes to School Instructors Abigail Slingsby, Jennifer Fox-Colwell, and Terri Wenzlaff
Wednesday, October 14th is Walk to School Day! (We hear the groans already.) You might say… Why do I have to walk to school? Why should I walk or ride with my child to school? And we say… Because it’s fun, it’s healthy, and it’s good for the environment.
What’s so fun about walking or riding to school? Are you kidding me? Isn’t riding a bike or walking more fun than sitting in a car? What if you can ride or walk with friends? You ride or walk along, listening to the birds chirping, the dogs barking, and the other kids getting ready for school. You see the vegetables ripening, smell the flowers blooming, and watch new houses being built. You can chat about what you are looking forward to that day, and share a laugh about the day you just had. By the time you get to school, it’s already a good day because you’ve been outside and moved your body.
Moving is part of keeping kids healthy — and smart. Walking or riding bikes to school enables children (and parents!) to incorporate regular physical activity into daily routines. Research shows that children who are active do better in school. (http://saferoutespartnership.org/blog/its-no-brainer-active-kids-smarter-kids ).
Regular exercise helps in so many other ways too! It promotes stronger muscles and bones, decreases the risk of developing diabetes, and lowers blood pressure. It has also been shown that physically fit kids sleep better, have more energy during the day, and have improved psychological well-being. (http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_center/staying_fit/exercise.html ).
Imagine… all this from just walking or riding to school! AND you save money by using less gas, which in turn helps the environment.
How can one person make a difference to the environment? You can – it all adds up! The more individuals that start riding or walking to school, the bigger the difference!
Did you know that, at pickup and drop off times, the most polluted air in a city is around the schools? I bet you can figure out why – adults sit in idling cars to wait for kids to finish school. Imagine if all those parents were standing outside the school chatting while they were waiting… the only pollution being created would be the noise from all the happy parents breathing in fresh air and telling funny stories about their kids.
Safety is an important concern, so plan your route well. You don’t have to take the same route that you drive – explore some back streets that aren’t as busy as the main thoroughfares. These are often safer and less congested routes for your walk or ride to school. Here is an interactive map to help you find the safest route between your house and your school: http://arcg.is/1blzn29 .
Parents, use this opportunity to teach your children how and where to cross streets safely (at marked crossings, stop signs, and traffic lights) and to always look left-right-left before crossing. Discuss the importance of walking on the sidewalk and paying attention to traffic. (The safest place for kids to ride bikes is on sidewalks.)
Parents, if you can’t walk or ride with your child each day, look into arranging a “walking or riding school bus” with other parents you trust — like a carpool but with everyone on bikes or walking. Each day, a different parent could take a turn ensuring the kids get to school safely under their own power.
Each day you walk or ride you will feel stronger and smarter – what a powerful feeling! Walking and riding to school creates a healthy habit that lasts a lifetime. Why not start this week?