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Can students transform us back to a walking society?

By dcuff
Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 at 12:44 pm in Uncategorized.

Thousands of students at dozens of East Bay schools are walking to school today as part of International Walk and Roll to School Day. Skeptics might dismiss this as something like “international eat your green beans day.”

 But many experts say Americans’ shift to drive more and walk and bicycle less is taking a heavy toll on the public in terms of childhood obesity, increased air pollution and traffic congestion.

Click here to read about what TransForm, a  Bay Area transportation group, is doing to promote walking and riding along safe routes to schools. To watch a video on today’s activities, click here and then click on ”Jefferson School in Berkeley Supports International Walk to School Day.”   

Only about one in 10 American school kids regularly walk to school these days, a sharp decline from the one in two school children that walked a generation ago, according to TransForm.

The reasons for the trend are varied: land use development and community layout that encourages driving, safety concerns about traffic and child snatchers, more working women who don’t have the time to walk their children to school.

The annual International Walk to School Day draws attention and energy to cause, with more than 70 Alameda County schools participating. “It’s something we have to work on year round,” said Nora Cody, TransForm’s Safe Routes to Schools program manager.  

Her group works with schools, cities, and health organizations to seek funding for  crosswalk, sidewalk, trail and  lighting improvements to make traveling by foot and bicycle easier and safer.

The group also promotes  “walking school bus”  programs in which a parent acts as an escort to walk with several students to school.

“We provide bright reflective clothing and stop signs to the parents to help them get the students to school safely,” Cody said.

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