Walk to School Day Celebrates National Efforts to Promote More Walkable, Active Communities

Thousands of Events in US Will Recognize the Role Walking and Bicycling to School Can Play in Student Health and Safety

CHAPEL HILL, NC (October 6, 2010) — Today, thousands of students, parents and communities representing more than 3,200 schools across America are celebrating the simple act of walking and bicycling to school. It's International Walk to School Day!

Now in its 13th year, this one-day event in the U.S. is a part of an international effort in more than 40 countries to celebrate the many benefits of safely walking and bicycling to school and to encourage more families to consider getting out of the car and onto their feet on the way to school in October.

Walking and rolling to school also embodies two main goals of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign: to increase our kids' physical activity and to empower parents to make these kinds of healthy choices.

"Congratulations to all those participating in International Walk to School Day. By walking or biking to school, students, parents, teachers, and administrators all across America are getting active. It also helps kids get a head start on being active for 60 minutes each day, the goal set by the Presidential Active Lifestyle program. I know that by getting students moving, we can help ensure they will live full and healthy lives, and that is why I am so encouraged by all the events going on across our country this month," said First Lady Michelle Obama.

The National Center for Safe Routes to School, which serves as the clearinghouse for the federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, coordinates online registration efforts and provides technical support and resources for Walk to School Day in the U.S. and facilitates worldwide promotion and participation. Safe Routes to School programs are sustained efforts by parents, schools, community leaders and local, state, and federal governments to improve the health and well-being of children by enabling and encouraging them to walk and bicycle to school. Safe Routes to School activities range from building sidewalks, to getting drivers to slow down in school zones, to encouraging students to take active trips to school with school-wide competitions. On average, at least 50 percent of Walk to School Day events are part of an ongoing SRTS program each year.

"Safe Routes to School is a terrific program to encourage walking and biking to school," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. "Not only does it put the right infrastructure, like sidewalks, in place to help families be safe as they walk and bicycle to school, it also helps them stay active."

Secretary LaHood will join a group of students in Silver Spring, Maryland, this morning on the walk to school, as a part of Montgomery County's Walk to School Day celebration.

"I am excited by the variety of government officials who are coming together to support and celebrate Walk to School Day this year," said U.S. Rep. James L. Oberstar, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. "I hope this type of national collaboration between the U.S. Department of Transportation and the First Lady's Let's Move! campaign signals to communities across the country that together we change the transportation habits of an entire generation of young people, and make the American youth safer, healthier and happier."

Chairman Oberstar sponsored the Safe Routes to School legislation that strives to create safe settings to enable more parents and children to walk and bicycle to school.

"Walk to School Day is a chance for families to reconnect with a lifestyle that existed before the car became the default mode of transportation, even for short trips," said Lauren Marchetti, director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School. "We hear stories from across the country about how that first walk or bicycle ride to school encourages a family or a school to keep moving — and that's the exciting part of the celebration."

As of Oct. 5 more than 3,200 U.S. schools have registered their local Walk to School Day events on the U.S. Walk to School website, www.walktoschool.org, and this number is expected to increase throughout October. The total number of participating schools each year is not fully reflected by the reported numbers on the Walk to School website, as many communities participate and do not register their events.

A variety of different Walk to School events will be held nationwide today and throughout the month of October. To view the names and locations of registered U.S. schools participating in Walk to School Day 2010, visit www.walktoschool.org/who/index.cfm.

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, eco-conscious mom Jennie Garth, as seen on "90210" and "Dancing with the Stars," and National Center for Safe Routes to School staff joined the Walk to School celebration at PS 89 Liberty School in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York City. This event and the ongoing Walk to School Challenge competition on Facebook, www.facebook.com/greenworks, is a part of the National Center's promotional partnership with the makers of Green Works for Walk to School 2010.

The U.S. participated in its first Walk to School celebration in 1997 as a way to bring community leaders and children together to build awareness about walkable communities. In 2006, the International Walk to School Committee, consisting of representatives from several countries, promoted Walk to School for the entire month of October to include more countries around the world who expressed interest in participating in this energizing event.

For a complete list of other countries participating in Walk to School Day 2010, visit: www.iwalktoschool.org/whoswalking.

For past photos of International Walk to School Day activities, visit: www.iwalktoschool.org/photos.

About The National Center for Safe Routes to School

Established in May 2006, the National Center for Safe Routes to School assists states and communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bicycle to school. The National Center serves as the clearinghouse for the federal Safe Routes to School program. The organization also provides technical support and resources and coordinates online registration efforts and provides technical support and resources for U.S. Walk to School Day and facilitates worldwide promotion and participation. The National Center is part of 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.

About Walk to School Day

Walk to School Day was founded in 1997 as a way to bring community leaders and children together to build awareness for communities to be more walkable. By 2002, children, parents, teachers and community leaders in all 50 states and the District of Columbia joined nearly 3 million walkers around the world to celebrate the second annual International Walk to School Day. The one-day event has now grown to a month-long celebration. In 2009, students and parents from over 3,500 U.S. schools joined millions of Walk to School Day and Month participants worldwide. The reasons for walking have grown just as quickly as the event itself. Whether a community's concern is safer and improved streets, healthier habits, or the environment, Walk to School Day events are aimed at bringing forth permanent change to encourage a more walkable, bikeable America — one community at a time. For more information, visit www.walktoschool.org.

###