Celebrate International Walk to School Month in October!

Information courtesy of Walk to School.org

Join kids and families around the globe to walk and bicycle to school in October. Communities are using the walk or bike to school as the first step to change community culture and create environments that are more inviting for everyone, young and old.

Here are some reasons to support walking and biking to school:

Physical Activity

Free, convenient, enjoyable and does not require special equipment or training: Walking is a great way for adults and kids to be active. Lack of physical activity is a major cause of chronic illness and death for our country’s adults. Being overweight can cause health problems like diabetes during childhood and research shows that physically inactive kids are more likely to grow up to be physically inactive adults — and are therefore at high risk for obesity and related illnesses.

There are plenty of great reasons to walk to school — less traffic, safer streets, cleaner air — but one of the best is that children and parents will be healthier. With obesity rates skyrocketing and only one-quarter of American’s able to get the Surgeon General’s recommended daily dose of exercise (just 30 minutes), it’s an ideal time to encourage people to walk to school for their own health and well-being.

Kids need to move

Obesity rates among children have more than doubled in the past twenty years, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Youth. Even worse, rates of obesity are much higher among minority children than among white youth, suggesting a grave social inequity in the availability of safe, healthy recreational opportunities.

Add walking to the mix. Physical activity recommendations for children suggest that they need a variety of activities each day-some intense, some less-so, some informal, some structured. Walking or cycling to and from school is an ideal way to get some of that activity at no extra cost to the child or family.

Walking to school is a missed opportunity. Roughly 10% of children nationwide walk to school regularly. Even among those kids living within a mile of their school, only 25% are regular walkers.
Parents who walk or bike to school with their kids get to be sociable.

Air Quality and the Environment

Walking or biking to school protects the environment and your health. When children decide to lace-up their sneakers to walk, or strap on their bike helmets to pedal to school instead of riding in a car, they reduce the amount of air pollutants emitted by automobiles.

These air pollutants can be especially harmful to children. Children have respiratory systems that are not fully developed, they spend more time at higher activity levels, which can cause them to breath more deeply and take in more air pollution. They are also more likely to have asthma or other acute respiratory problems that can be aggravated by air pollution than other age groups. By walking or riding a bike to school, children lower the amount of vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which helps reduce toxic air pollutants.

Vehicles emit a variety of air pollutants. For example, ground level ozone is created by a chemical reaction between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compound gases in the presence of heat and sunlight..
Particulate matter are particles of dust, soot, smoke, dirt, and liquid droplets that are also released into the air by cars, trucks and other vehicles.

Hazardous or toxic air pollutants like the ones mentioned above are known or suspected to cause serious health effects such as cancer, birth defects, or respiratory, neurological, immune, or reproductive effects.

The promotion of bicycling and walking to school provides an opportunity to address safety. Every year, about 25,000 child pedestrians are injured by motor vehicles. Reducing the risk of injury includes teaching children pedestrian and bicycle skills. It also means reminding drivers to watch for others using the road. Hazardous conditions along routes to school need to be identified and fixed.

Some of the best ways to increase the safety of a child’s walk or bike to school are to:
•    provide safe, well-maintained walkways separate from vehicles;

•    Teach children to cross streets at marked crossings and to always look left-right-left

•    Slow traffic in neighborhoods and near schools through traffic calming and enforcement

•    Work with parents of children with disabilities and special education professionals to identify accessibility barriers

•    Ensure that walkways are continues and meet national accessibility standards

•    Install curb ramps at every intersection and mid-block crossing

•    Provide accessible pedestrian signals at intersections

Celebrate Walk to School Day on October 5th on your community and throughout the month of October. Together, we can make a difference around the globe and  in our own community. For more information, visit their website: Walk to School. Org

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