I’m the lead organizer for Walk to School Day here in Northfield, Minnesota, again. It promises to be a fun event, as usual!
Here is our press release for this year:
Students at Northfield Middle School and the three public elementary schools will celebrate Walk to School Day again this year on Thursday, October 8.
It promises to be a fun event for many students who have a safe route available from their homes. Not only will they get to walk with their friends, but there will be prizes and recognition as well.
The event is part of the district’s Safe Routes to Schools program, which is designed to help students and communities gain the benefits from increased walking and biking. Those benefits include improved health, a stronger sense of community, and reduced traffic congestion and air pollution.
The event also helps to illustrate the benefits of “complete streets”–streets that are built to accommodate all users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and the handicapped. Unfortunately, all too often streets in our society are incomplete.
Students will receive maps of recommended routes, and adult volunteers will be stationed along the routes during the morning and afternoon travel times. A Northfield police officer will be located at the intersection of Jefferson Parkway and Division St./Highway 246 during both the Middle School and Bridgewater travel times. Bridgewater students who live east and northeast of the school are asked to ride the bus as usual due to concerns with that intersection.
Again this year Walk to School Day is funded through the Safe Routes to Schools grant that the school district and city won in 2008. The $30,000 grant includes money for “encouragement” programs such as Walk to School Day.
The grant has also funded an engineering study of walking and biking routes to the district’s K-8 schools. The study has been completed and will be released soon to the public.
The Northfield Safe Routes to Schools Task Force and Northfield Public Schools are organizing the local Walk to School Day in cooperation with the City of Northfield. Many schools around the world will be celebrating Walk to School Day a day earlier. Here in Northfield, the Safe Routes to Schools Task Force decided that the local school schedule makes October 8 a better day for the event.
Forty years ago nearly half of all kids walked or bicycled to school. Today less than fifteen percent get to school that way, and many are driven to school in motor vehicles. Public health experts believe that reductions in physical activity are partly to blame for dramatic increases in rates of diabetes and obesity in children.
Since 1997, communities around the U.S. have been celebrating Walk to School Day. Around the globe, International Walk to School Month brings together more than 40 countries in recognition of the common interest in walking to school.
In its twelfth year, U.S. participation reached a record high with more than 2,800 events from all fifty states and the District of Columbia registering in 2008. Many more communities held events but did not register. For more information visit the National Walk to School and International Walk to School web sites.