Many adults remember walking or riding their bikes to and from school. How many times do we remember Grandpa telling us about how hard his walk to school was back in the day (“I walked seven miles uphill in six feet of snow each way. You kids have it easy, I tell you.”)?
But over the last couple of decades, fewer kids have been able to walk or bike to school. Now they catch a school bus or are driven to class by their parents, even when they live less than a half-mile away from the school building.
In 1997, the Partnership for a Walkable America sponsored the first National Walk Our Children To School Day in Chicago, modeling it after a program in Great Britain. By 2002, all 50 states and more than 3 million students were participating in International Walk (or Bike) to School Day. This is an event that promotes safer and improved streets and sidewalks, healthy habits and clean air.
There still is time for schools in Alaska to organize their own International Walk (or Bike) to School Day Events. To get started, go to the State of Alaska’s Safe Routes To School site. There should be a list of events scheduled for Alaska schools (if your school isn’t listed, then create and event and register it). You also can go to the National Center for Safe Routes To School site for more information.
Many parents will organize walking school buses (where kids join a group of walkers as it passes their house, with several parents in the mix for safety). Local merchants can donate door prizes that are raffled off to kids who walk or bike to school (reflective arm/leg bands, bike lights, bike helmets, etc., are good prizes). It’s good to have parents involved, because they can note problems along the route, such as a blind corner with no sidewalk for walkers or a house with an aggressive dog. Also, don’t forget to reward safe practices, such as all cyclists should wear bike helmets (Sitka has a mandatory helmet ordinance for youth) and making sure jackets have reflectives so drivers can see the kids.