The parent powered movement
Every child seems to have heard this at some point. And while exaggerated, people DID walk to school every day. Kids rode their bikes, or skateboards or simply got to school using their own bodies.
I walked, too. We lived about four blocks from our neighborhood school in Park Hill. My little sister and I banded together with a couple of neighbors, and we got ourselves to and from school every day. Most kids in our neighborhood did the same thing. It was a way of life.
Things have changed since then. People are driving everywhere, even the short distance of four blocks (or less!) to school. According to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, the percentage of children walking or bicycling to school has dropped from approximately 50 percent in 1969 to just 13 percent in 2009. Kids are less active today, and obesity is on the rise.
Schools are often overextended with extracurricular programs. It can be tricky to get a teacher or administrator to commit to sponsoring a big change in school transportation. However, if a parent or community member is willing to lead the effort, schools will often hop on board.
Does your school have a traffic congestion problem? Are administrators trying to save money on busing? Are you trying to get your kids a little more exercise in the morning so they perform better in school?
If you are looking to make a change at your school, the power of a motivated parent (or parent group) should not be overlooked. School administrators need to hear from parents like you who are on the ground and have viable, tangible solutions to ongoing issues. Think of yourselves as constituents—principals are the elected officials.
Here are a few easy steps YOU can take to get walking and biking participation rates boosted at your school (and most of them are free!):
- Sign up for International Walk to School Day on October 8, 2014. Walkbiketoschool.org provides tips and guidance for running an event large or small. Signing up takes less than five minutes. And this year, if you register and then report your Walk to School Day activities, your school will be eligible to win one of three $250 mini-grants to be used to continue Safe Routes to School encouragement and education.
- Organize a walking school bus or bicycle train (otherwise known as a walking or biking group.) This can be a group of two or a pack of 200.
- Can’t walk or bike the whole way? Start a remote drop-off program. Choose a park or other safe location a few blocks away from school and walk students in from there.
- Start small. Don’t feel like you need to walk or bike every day; try starting with one day a week. Many schools have successful “Walking and Wheeling Wednesdays” or designated days each month.
- Participate in Fire Up Your Feet: a program that tracks student and family biking and walking trips AND can raise money for your school.
- Make it fun! Organize theme days: Pedaling in PJs, Walkin’ with Wigs, Bike/scooter/skateboard decoration day or a canned food drive (each walker or biker brings a donation.) Play a game: Ask kids what the coolest or grossest thing they encountered on their walk in was, or talk about what animals they saw that they would not have seen in a car.
- Try Boltage: a kids trip-tracker and incentive program. (Note: There is a fee associated with this program.) I recently worked with a mom who wrote a grant to fund this program at her kid’s school in Stapleton. They now have an average of 90 bikers a day!
- Need some talking points to make your case? Get some quick facts on traffic congestion, safety, health and obesity, environment and bus transportation costs from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.
Visit Bicycle Colorado for more information on our Safe Routes to School programs and how to get one started at your school.
Let’s get kids back to using those feet!