Wednesday, Oct. 6, is international Walk-to-School day, and parents are encouraged to send their kids on down the sidewalk. The Missouri Department of Transportation says it’s good for all.
John Schaefer is the Missouri Safe Routes to School Coordinator for the Transportation Department. Shaefer says even rural parents who live sometimes miles from their childrens’ schools can establish a spot a few blocks from school and encourage their kids to walk the rest of the way. He recommends starting from a grocery store, a park, or other public place.
Shaefer says there’s not a one-size-fits all formula when it comes to age or distance. He says each family needs to take their child’s ability into account. He recommends walking with them, at least for the first time. He says “How far is too far?” is a question each family needs to decide on their own.
Shaefer says some parents might worry about the threat of abduction, but that kids are no less safe walking to and from school than they were 50 years ago. He says media attention has led some to believe abductions happens more frequently than they actually do. But he says it’s still a good idea to review safety rules about strangers with your children.
Shaefer says kids who walk to school are not only healthier, but also tend to do better in school because they’ve gotten some exercise to work off some extra energy. He says bikers and walkers are more likely to show up at school ready to focus and learn.
It also cuts down on traffic congestion and emissions.
Shaefer says the mild weather this time of year is the perfect time for parents and kids to give walking and bicycling to school a try.
“It also helps promote safety by providing an opportunity to teach kids safe walking and bicycling skills.”
At least 28 Missouri communities are participating in this year’s Walk to School Day; Schaefer said it’s likely others have activities planned, but may not have registered their events or are choosing other days during October to celebrate. The entire month of October is Walk to School Month; Oct. 4 through 8 is Walk to School Week and Oct. 6 is International Walk to School Day.
“Whether your school is holding an official event or not, it’s important to remember that there are many children who walk to school, and we need to be aware of their presence,” Schaefer said.
The Missouri Department of Transportation oversees the Safe Routes to School program which provides safer biking and walking accommodations for children in grades K-8. The program is designed to provide public awareness and outreach efforts and improve biking and walking conditions around schools.
To find out more about Walk to School Day in Missouri, visit http://www.walktoschool.org/who/seestate.cfm?st=MO.
For more information on Safe Routes to School, visit http://www.modot.org/safety/SafeRoutestoSchool.htm.