This is a blog post by Margaux Mennesson, Communications and Marketing Manager at Safe Routes to School National Partnership, lead organization for September’s monthly theme “Change the Way You Commute.” 

School mornings can be chaotic, even for the most organized families. Preparing meals, getting dressed, and getting the kids out the door – often while one or both parents are simultaneously preparing for a full day at work – is no easy task! If a family is used to riding the bus or driving to school, changing up the routine to include walking might seem daunting at first. Will it add another element of chaos into an already busy morning? Will parents still be able to get to work on time? Is it really worth it?

The good news is, changing up the commute to school doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing commitment. Many families start with just one step at a time! Plus, there are enormous benefits to making walking a regular part of your routine.

The Benefits of Walking to School

More energy throughout the day. Better focus in class. Healthy habits that last a lifetime. These are just a few of the benefits that kids who walk, bike, or roll to school gain from incorporating physical activity into their regular daily routine. Studies show that:

  • Kids who are physically active do better in school, arrive ready to learn, are more attentive in class and score higher on tests.
  • Improved traffic safety and more confidence on the streets is valuable for kids outside of the classroom.
  • Kids who walk to school benefit from increased family and community engagement.

Resource:

The Benefits of Safe Routes to School
This webpage has talking points, facts, and stats all about the benefits of walking and biking to school. Feel free to use these messages in your own materials!

One Step At a Time

Changing up your commute to school doesn’t mean you have to commit to walking and biking every single day right off the bat. Here are a few ways to start small, and still get the benefits of increased physical activity.

  • Walk to School Day: Participate in International Walk to School Day on October 10, 2018. Join thousands of students across the country riding, scootering, rolling, and walking to school. Register your school for free at Walk & Bike To School and plan your route. Participate with a walking school bus, a bike train, or by using remote drop-off.
  • Remote drop-off: Designate one or more sites within walking distance of school (usually ¼ to ½ mile) where parents and school buses drop off students, and students walk the rest of the way with volunteer chaperones.
  • Walking School Programs: Typically, these programs involve choosing one day a week where students and families meet at designated points in the neighborhood and walk to school as a group. Depending on the size of your program, you may have several different neighborhood routes, or just one.

Resource:

Step By Step: How to Start a Walking School Bus At Your School
This step-by-step guide outlines how to plan and implement a walking school bus for your school, and includes proven tools, tips, and resources for a fast and easy start.

Level Up Your Safe Routes to School Program

Schools with strong Safe Routes to School programs create a culture of walking and biking that makes it even easier for families to change up their commute to school. A strong Safe Routes to School program includes the 6 Es: Education, Enforcement, Engineering, Encouragement, Evaluation, and Equity. Combining all of these elements together in a comprehensive program help reduce congestion and improve safety around school, increase students’ physical activity, and provide fun and encouraging ways for families to give walking and biking a try.

Resources:

Starting and Running a Safe Routes to School Program: The Basics
This resource goes into detail about each of the 6 Es that make up a comprehensive Safe Routes to School program, with tools and resources for getting started.

Keep Calm and Carry On to School: Improving Arrival and Dismissal for Walking and Biking
This infobrief provides information on how schools, districts, cities, counties, and community partners can address arrival and dismissal in school travel plans as well as other planning, policy, and programming efforts.

How to Be A Parent Champion for Safe Routes to School
Learn about how parents and families can get involved in Safe Routes to School, though data collection, school and neighborhood improvements, policy change, and programs to enable and encourage more walking and bicycling.

How Do You Change the Way You Commute to School?

We want to hear from you. How did you change the way you commute to school? Share your story on social media with the hashtag #Walk4Change.

Connect with us:

Facebook.com/saferoutespartnership

Twitter @SafeRoutesNow

www.saferoutespartnership.org