Spring is here! Often the warmer temperatures have more kids wanting to walk or bike to school, and this can be a worrying matter for many parents. According to data collected in 2013, through the Toledo Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program of Live Well Greater Toledo, families that live within walking distance of their neighborhood school typically drive their kids to and from school due to concerning barriers, such as excessive traffic and speed of traffic along routes, lack of sidewalks and safe crossings at intersections, and personal safety.
Live Well Greater Toledo is a diverse collaboration of community leaders and organizations working together to promote policy, systems, and environmental change to support improved nutrition and physical activity for a healthier community. Live Well is strongly supported by the YMCA of Greater Toledo, and through partnerships with the Toledo Public School (TPS) District, City of Toledo, and Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), Live Well is working diligently to improve students’ ability to walk and bicycle to school safely through the Toledo SRTS program. SRTS is a national and international movement to create safe, convenient, and fun opportunities for children to engage in active transportation, such as bicycling and walking to and from school.
In 1969, approximately 50% of youth walked or bicycled to school. Today, less than 15% of youth walk or bicycle to school, and as a result, our children are becoming less active, less independent, and less healthy. The Toledo SRTS program is addressing these concerning issues through infrastructure projects that address lack of sidewalks and unsafe crossings, as well as providing encouragement and educational programs that make walking and bicycling to school more fun and safe for students in our community. Walking and bicycling to school allows children to include the daily physical activity they need to maintain strong muscles, bones, and joints as well as decrease their risk of obesity and other chronic diseases while establishing healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
Some local schools are implementing a “Walk and Roll” Wednesday program or a “Walking School Bus” program to positively impact student well-being. “Walk and Roll” Wednesdays simply encourage students and families to use active transportation, such as walking or bicycling to school, on designated Wednesdays each month in an effort to create a more safe environment near the school for students that would like to walk or bicycle to school, providing opportunities for increased daily physically activity. The program uses a web-based barcode technology service to capture real-time data of student trips to and from school and how it positively impacts their health and well-being. Most importantly, parents can opt to receive an instant notification via text or email that their child has arrived to school safely.
A “Walking School Bus” (WSB) program works much like a regular school bus. It is a fun, safe, and creative solution that enables students to walk or bike to and from school while being led by an adult WSB “driver.” The “driver” walks a well-planned route with meeting points and a timetable, picking up students along the route and safely walking them to school.
Toledo SRTS will be celebrating Bike Month during the month of May along with many other community organizations by participating in International Bike to School Day (BTSD) on Wednesday, May 10th. BTSD events create more awareness around the need for active transportation projects and programs that enhance the routes student use for walking and bicycling. Some schools will host a bicycle fix-it program sponsored by Toledo SRTS, providing free safety checks, free helmets and fittings, along with bicycle safety education.
When May 10th rolls around and you’re considering whether or not to bike to school with your child, remember the excitement of walking to school or riding your bike on that very first day of school. A sense of adventure is created, bringing a feeling of joy and independence. Families are provided countless opportunities to enjoy the sounds of the neighborhood and nature as well as build connections within their neighborhood community. When families choose active transportation and lace up their shoes or strap on their bicycle helmets, they are creating a healthier and safer community for all.❦