CHAPEL HILL, NC (October 5, 2009) — On Wednesday, October 7th, students, parents, teachers and local officials in several thousand communities in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia will walk to school together to celebrate the 13th annual International Walk to School Day. These events also kick off October as International Walk to School Month, the month when communities in over 40 countries will participate in daily, weekly or monthly events designed to raise awareness about the many benefits of safely walking and bicycling to school.
“International Walk to School Day events held on Wednesday and throughout the month of October highlight an increasingly important global issue,” said Lauren Marchetti, Director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School, a national clearinghouse that provides U.S. programs with information needed to implement safe and successful Safe Routes to School programs and strategies. “When communities and schools work together to make routes to school safer for their children to walk and bicycle, there is an opportunity for many safety, public health, and environmental benefits to be enjoyed by all community members.”
On Wednesday a variety of different Walk to School Day events will be held nationwide. In Alexandria, Va., George Mason Elementary students, parents and teachers will be joined by city, state and federal officials to celebrate the occasion. Joseph S. Toole, Associate Administrator, Office of Safety, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and Rebecca Crowe, Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program Manager, FHWA, plan to walk to school with a group of George Mason students as part of a “walking school bus” — a group of children supervised by adults while walking to school.
"All of us in the U.S. Department of Transportation very much support building more healthy and livable communities nationwide,” said Mr. Toole. “I can think of no better way to promote this cause than by joining the millions of parents, children and communities celebrating a child’s active and safe trip to school on International Walk to School Day.”
Livable Streets Education, the New York City Department of Transportation, Walk21, and the National Center for Safe Routes to School will co-host a free citywide event at Washington Square Park on Walk to School Day from 1-2 p.m. Fun activities focused on healthy lifestyles have been planned for K-12 students, including a live performance by world-famous beatboxer Rahzel, a former member of The Roots, and a presentation about active communities and urban livability given by international leaders in the field.
As of October 5, more than 3,000 U.S. schools have pre-registered their local Walk to School Day events on the U.S. Walk to School Web site, www.walktoschool.org, and this number is expected to increase throughout October. The total number of participating schools each year is even higher than reported numbers, as additional communities hold events but do not register.
The U. S. held its first International Walk to School Day in 1997 at a school in Chicago. In July 2005, the nation affirmed its commitment to helping children walk and bicycle safely to school when Congress passed federal legislation that established a national Safe Routes to School program. The program dedicated a total of $612 million towards Safe Routes from 2005 to 2009.
Established in May 2006, the National Center for Safe Routes to School assists communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bike to school. The Center strives to equip Safe Routes to School programs with the knowledge and technical information to implement safe and successful strategies. The Center also serves as the coordinating agency for Walk to School activities in the U.S.
The National Center for Safe Routes to School is maintained by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. For more information, visit: www.saferoutesinfo.org.