EDITOR’S NOTE: EACH TUESDAY MY GREEN SIDE BRINGS SIMPLE TIPS FOR GREEN LIVING TO THE CHRISTOPHER GABRIEL PROGRAM. WE ALSO HIGHLIGHT A FAVORITE GREEN SITE EACH WEEK. YOU CAN STREAM THE SEGMENT AT APPROXIMATELY 1220PM (CENTRAL) EVERY TUESDAY AT WDAY.COM OR, IF YOU’RE IN NORTH DAKOTA OR WESTERN MINNESOTA, LISTEN ON YOUR RADIO AT AM970 WDAY.
Here are some reasons to support walking and biking to school courtesy of WalktoSchool.org:
- To enhance the health of kids
- Physical Activity
- Free, convenient, enjoyable and does not require special equipment or training: Walking is a great way for adults and kids to be active. Lack of physical activity is a major cause of chronic illness and death for our country’s adults. Being overweight can cause health problems like diabetes during childhood and research shows that physically inactive kids are more likely to grow up to be physically inactive adults — and are therefore at high risk for obesity and related illnesses.
- There are plenty of great reasons to walk to school — less traffic, safer streets, cleaner air — but one of the best is that children and parents will be healthier. With obesity rates skyrocketing and only one-quarter of American’s able to get the Surgeon General’s recommended daily dose of exercise (just 30 minutes), it’s an ideal time to encourage people to walk to school for their own health and well-being.
- Physical Activity
How much activity should kids get? Elementary school-aged children should accumulate at least 30 to 60 minutes of age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate physical activity from a variety of activities on all, or most, days of the week.
What about adults? To promote their general health, adults are encouraged to meet or exceed recommendations of at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity “most” days of the week.
- To improve air quality and the environment
- Walking or biking to school protects the environment and your health. When children decide to lace-up their sneakers to walk, or strap on their bike helmets to pedal to school instead of riding in a car, they reduce the amount of air pollutants emitted by automobiles.
- 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 breath more deeply and take in more air pollution. They are also more likely to have asthma or other acute respiratory problems that can be aggravated by air pollution than other age groups. By walking or riding a bike to school, children lower the amount of vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which helps reduce toxic air pollutants.
- Vehicles emit a variety of air pollutants. For example, ground level ozone is created by a chemical reaction between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compound gases in the presence of heat and sunlight. Visit http://epa.gov/air/ozonepollution to find more about ozone and www.epa.gov/air/urbanair/nox/hlth.html to learn about nitrogen oxides.
- Particulate matter are particles of dust, soot, smoke, dirt, and liquid droplets that are also released into the air by cars, trucks and other vehicles. Go to www.epa.gov/air/urbanair/pm/index.html to learn more about particulate matter.
- Hazardous or toxic air pollutants like the ones mentioned above are known or suspected to cause serious health effects such as cancer, birth defects, or respiratory, neurological, immune, or reproductive effects. To find out more, visit www.epa.gov/air/toxicair/newtoxics.html.
- To create safer routes for walking and bicycling
- The promotion of bicycling and walking to school provides an opportunity to address safety. Every year, about 25,000 child pedestrians are injured by motor vehicles. Reducing the risk of injury includes teaching children pedestrian and bicycle skills. It also means reminding drivers to watch for others using the road. Hazardous conditions along routes to school need to be identified and fixed.
- Some of the best ways to increase the safety of a child’s walk or bike to school are to:
- Provide safe, well-maintained walkways separate from vehicles
- Teach children to cross streets at marked crossings and to always look left-right-left
- Slow traffic in neighborhoods and near schools through traffic calming and enforcement
- Work with parents of children with disabilities and special education professionals to identify accessibility barriers
- Ensure that walkways are continues and meet national accessibility standards
- Install curb ramps at every intersection and mid-block crossing
- Provide accessible pedestrian signals at intersections
Check out who’s walking in your area at WalktoSchool.org.
It began as an idea… In 1997, the Partnership for a Walkable America sponsored the first National Walk Our Children to School Day in Chicago, modeled after the United Kingdom’s lead. Back then, it was simply a day to bring community leaders and children together to create awareness of the need for communities to be walkable.
It evolved into a movement… By the year 2002, children, parents, teachers and community leaders in all 50 states joined nearly 3 million walkers around the world to celebrate the second annual International Walk to School Day. The reasons for walking grew just as quickly as the event itself.
Whether your concern is safer and improved streets, healthier habits, or cleaner air, Walk to School Day events are aimed at bringing forth permanent change to encourage a more walkable America — one community at a time.
Now it’s a priority… In 2005, new legislation recognized the value of Safe Routes to School programs and is providing funding for States to establish programs. Politicians and other government officials are paying attention to the importance of safe walking and biking to school. Obesity, concern for the environment and the effects of urban sprawl on communities has led to the joining of efforts among those that care about these and other related issues like school siting and traffic congestion.
Join International Walk to School activities.