From WILL - The Public Square -

Cynthia Hoyle on Walk to School Day

Walk To School Day

Cynthia Hoyle, an employee of the CU Mass Transit District.

Did you know that in 2001 less than 15% of students walked or biked to school? In 1969 48% of students walked or biked to school. Today approximately 34% of students living within 1 mile walk or bike to school compared to 90% in 1969. The prevalence of overweight children has tripled in recent years. Many experts feel that lack of activity is one of the primary reasons for the increase in childhood obesity and the increase in cases of type 2 diabetes in children. Experts say that elementary school children should accumulate 30-60 minutes of age appropriate physical activity each day. Several trends have caused the decline in children walking and biking to school.

According to the Local Government Commission since WWII the number of schools in the USA has declined 70% while the average size grew fivefold. Studies show that school location and the built environment between home and school impact how students get to school. So what can we do to help children walk and bike to school safely? There are two walking to school programs in our community: International Walk to School Day and Safe Routes to School. Safe Routes to School is a nationwide program that promotes non-motorized school trips. It incorporates safety as the integral component and employs a variety of strategies to get children walking and biking. Successful Safe Routes to School programs used in other communities have included things such as: Walking Wednesdays, Walk to School Day and Walking School Buses.

International Walk to School Day was first started in Champaign Urbana in 2004. Four local elementary schools participated as did several elected officials and a local radio station that broadcast the event live. Everyone enjoyed the event and the kids at the participating schools received goodies such as backpack reflectors. This October 5th we are inviting parents to walk with their kids to school and fill out a "Walkability Checklist" given to kids at participating schools. The checklist is then tabulated and used to identify and address safety issues. The event also works to educate kids on safe walking behavior, safe walking routes and the physical and environmental benefits of walking or biking to school.

Sponsoring organizations of the Champaign Urbana Walk to School Day event are Champaign County SAFEKIDS Coalition, Champaign Urbana Mass Transit District, Carle Foundation Hospital, Urbana and Champaign schools and the Cities of Urbana and Champaign. If you and your children are interested in walking to school you can contact me, Cynthia Hoyle at 278-9059 or you can visit the CUMTD website where information on the event is posted at www.cumtd.com We hope to see you walking!