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Walk to School Day

BINGHAMTON, NY - All around the world on October 4, 2006, children, parents and school staff will be outside walking or biking their way to school. Walk to School Day is a day that promotes safe walking and biking throughout the year. Walk to School Day was established in the United States in 1997 by the Partnership for a Walkable America. It began as a simple idea – children and parents, school and local officials walking to school together on a designated day. Today more than 5,000 schools register for this occasion and nearly 4 million people participate by walking or biking to school in at least 40 different countries as part of this international event. This year marks the first International Walk to School Day/Month. Schools around the world can choose to participate for a day, a month or throughout the whole school year.

Walk to School Day has enormous benefits to a community. It is the first step in changing a community’s culture and creating environments that are inviting for everyone. It enhances the health of children by encouraging physical activity throughout the day. As we all know, lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic illness and death in adults. Starting these healthy habits early in children can reduce the risk of developing these chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity–illnesses that are so common among our younger generations.

Walk to School Day also improves air quality and the environment in a community. Walking and biking replaces the need for cars which ultimately reduces air pollution. 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 breathe more deeply and take in more air pollution.

And lastly, this day creates safer routes for children to walk and bike. According to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, “every year 25,000 child pedestrians are injured by motor vehicles.” This day not only allows us to teach our kids about traffic safety but also to remind our drivers to watch for pedestrians and bicyclists on the road. The more people walk and bike, the more motorists with become accustomed to their presence.

In order to be safe on the roadways, parents and children should follow these easy safety tips when biking or walking:

  • Wear a helmet every time your ride your bike!
  • Make sure the bike fits you and is in good working order.
  • Be visible and wear bright colored clothing so drivers can see you.
  • Be predictable and make sure you signal when you turn so drivers know what you are doing.
  • Act like a car on the road and follow all traffic signs and signals.
  • Always ride on the right with traffic.
  • STOP, Look Left, Right, Left Again when coming to the end of a driveway or to a STOP sign.
  • Watch out for parked cars!
  • Walk on a sidewalk where you can; where there is no sidewalk, always walk on the left facing traffic.
  • STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN at every road edge.
  • Look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT-again and over the shoulder before crossing a street.
  • Cross when clear, and keep looking left and right.
  • WALK across the street – don’t run!

The next steps for a promotion such as the Walk to School Day would be to link it with an application for federal funding of the Safe Route to Schools Program, which would further enhance the safety and "walkability" of school neighborhoods. To get your “Team” on the road to developing a Safe Routes to School program: Download a copy of the “Safe Routes to School Toolkit”. The Broome County Health Department, Steps to a HealthierNY and Traffic Safety programs; United Health Services, B.C. Walks Committee; and the Binghamton Metropolitan Transportation Study can help facilitate and provide:

  • Walkability/Bikeability Surveys and Arrival/Departure Observations
  • Assistance with developing solutions to address issues & problems
  • Grant/funding application writing
  • General information & support

To learn more about the Broome County Health Department Steps to a HealthierNY initiative and how your school can participate in its programs contact Becky Gelunas by phone at 607.778.3902 or e-mail at rgelunas@co.broome.ny.us. Steps to a HealthierNY is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of Steps to a HealthierUS, a national program focusing on the prevention of diabetes, obesity and asthma and the control of risk factors including poor nutrition, physical inactivity and tobacco use and exposure. For more information about the Steps to a HealthierNY, please visit www.goBroomeCounty.com or call 607.778.3902.

For more information about International Walk to School Day, please visit their website, I walk, International Walk to School in the USA www.walktoschool.org/index.cfm or for more information about the activities happening in New York State, please visit, New York State Walk to School www.nyswalks.org/.

09/15/2006 - 7:08am