Christine Godward Green, Greater Washington D.C. Regional Policy Manager, Safe Routes to School National Partnership
Envision this: Across the Metropolitan Washington region, kids are laughing and talking with their friends, increasing their physical activity and arriving at school ready to learn. Everyone has a better commute because fewer cars are on the road. How do we accomplish this vision? Walk and Bike to School Day on October 3, 2012! Your community can participate and reap the benefits.
There are simple steps and plenty of resources to support you in your first Walk and Bike to School Day. First, encourage your principal to participate then involve the PTA or other interested parents, community organizations, walking and bicycling advocacy organizations, your local elected official or school board member. Decide how you will run your event and try to involve all students. Finally, get the word out! It is usually pretty easy to send notes home to parents through the school.
This event does not have to be limited to walking. Consider encouraging bicycling as well. Register your school and take advantage of the resources from the walktoschool.org website. Resources are also available on including children with disabilities. Incentives for the students are fun and can be simple. A nutritious snack, reflective stickers or pencils are inexpensive and often can be accommodated in the PTA budget. Another idea is to have a classroom competition. The classroom with the most students walking or bicycling wins a trophy. The trophy can then be used for future events and travel between classrooms.
The Metropolitan Washington region has some spectacular Safe Routes to School programs. The Takoma Park Safe Routes to School program just received national recognition from the James L. Oberstar Award committee, one of only three schools in the nation to receive recognition in 2012. Washington D.C. Ben W. Murch Elementary School won the Oberstar Award in 2009. Parents in the Vienna elementary schools have created a week long Bike/Walk Challenge that has been held for the past five years in the spring.
Photo by Jeff Anderson of Wolftrap Elementary School in Fairfax County
Walk and Bike to School Day demonstrates the fun and benefits of being physically active on the way to school. Hopefully, it also shows parents how easy it is to incorporate walking or bicycling to school one or more days per week. Many programs in the Metropolitan Washington community are year round programs with weekly or monthly Walk and Bike to School days.
For examples of schools in our region that have hosted walk and bike to school day activities, please see the Greater Washington region Safe Routes to School network walk and bike to school page. The Greater Washington network website also lists resources for more walk and bike to school event ideas as well as a step by step guide to plan your Walk and Bike to School Day event!