OLYMPIA – An estimated 15,000 students, parents, teachers and community leaders from across Washington will celebrate International Walk to School Month.
Throughout the month of October, Walk to School events will celebrate efforts to increase physical activity, clean air, pedestrian safety, and connections between families, school and the broader community, all while reducing traffic congestion around schools. Events typically begin with a group walk from children’s neighborhoods to their schools.
Many of the events are part of the Safe Routes to School program – a program funded in part by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) – and ongoing activities to promote walking and bicycling throughout the year.
WSDOT’s Safe Routes to Schools grant program has awarded nearly $29 million to 90 local communities since 2005 to fund cost-effective projects that improve safety and increase the number of children walking and biking to school, reducing congestion and providing healthy alternatives to driving kids to school.
“We’re emphasizing the importance of safe transportation options for everyone, especially school-age children,” said Highways and Local Programs Director Kathleen Davis. “We’re investing in sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian islands and other safety features that make walking safer and more convenient for children to get to and from school.”
Davis and Dan Mathis, FHWA administrator, will join a group of students on Oct. 5 in Olympia as a part of the Pioneer Elementary School’s Walk to School celebration. Fifty-four Washington schools throughout the state have events planned to draw attention to the many benefits of walking and bicycling to school.
In the U.S., International Walk to School Month is expected to include 3,200 schools from all 50 states. Walkers from the U.S. will join children and adults in 40 countries around the world. The U.S. participated in its first Walk to School celebration in 1997 as a way to bring community leaders and children together to build awareness about walkable communities.
Those who are interested in walking with their child or in a Safe Routes to School Program can follow the links below or contact their school for more information.
· International Walk to School in the USA - www.walktoschool.org
· National Center for Safe Routes to School - www.saferoutesinfo.org
· International Walk to School - www.iwalktoschool.org
· WSDOT Safe Routes to School Resource - www.wsdot.wa.gov/localprograms/saferoutes/