Today is Walk to School Day
Today is International Walk To School Day. Despite the name, this one-day event is held in the United States. Taking part are hundreds of thousands of students, parents and school officials. We’re glad that safety for pedestrian and cyclist participants is at its core. We are impressed the program is national in scope with, ahem, legs.
Rallying communities to get out of their cars and onto their feet, Walk & Bike to School Day in America began in 1997. The organizers based in Chapel Hill, NC, National Center for Safe Routes to School say over 4,000 schools registered events this year.
Community safety is the goal
Help for schools and local communities to organize events to promote walking and biking safety is something the national organization should be applauded for. Beginning with the trip to school, the NCSRS goal is to encourage the entire community to join in. Walk & Bike to School Day is meant to be a starting point to connect with broader health and community safety goals.
Walk to School Day inspires schools and entire communities to celebrate safety, health and active transportation. Participation increases every year, which is quite an impressive legacy of people coming together with the common goal of starting children on the right foot so they can thrive for years to come. — Nancy Pullen-Seufert, Director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School
Walk & Bike to School Day follows the 8th annual National Bike to School Day in May. Registering more than 3,400 events set a record.
Healthy evidence encourages action
We think the use of research-based evidence is key.
Since 2006, the National Center for Safe Routes to School has been part of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Highway Safety Research Center. Translating research into tools is a how the National Center gets all types of municipalities, transportation planners, schools and community groups involved. They use the tools for education, technical support and training.
In addition to transportation safety, the health connection to physical activity is part of the goals of Walk to School Day. Cardiovascular health, muscular fitness and bone health are all improved with regular physical activity.
Using data, the CDC identifies what works to improve pedestrian and cycling safety and to increase participation. That helps them make the case for individuals and for communities. the CDC’s research is effective when it actually becomes built infrastructure. When more people choose active transportation more often on foot or by bike, the evidence has turned into action.
Setting goals and measuring results
According the the US Centers for Disease Control, the key elements of SRTS (Safe Routes to School) include:
- City planning and engineering – creating safe conditions for walking and biking in a built environment
- Tools, guides and resources – to encourage participation in safe active transport
- Education – for students, parents and community about road rules and traffic safety
- Enforcement – to encourage safety and reduce unsafe behaviour of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians
- Evaluation – to monitor and measure the program impacts
Over a three-year period, the CDC measured the impact of the national SRTS program and found:
15% of students walked to and from school, which is double 7-8% participation three years earlier
2% of students biked to and from school, up from 1%
Hmm, those participation numbers are not that impressive. There’s a long, ahem, walk ahead. By another measure, though, the program is a resounding success.
Safer means savings
In an analysis of SRTS in New York City, the CDC found that road modifications, new traffic and pedestrian signals reduced childhood and overall injury rates. They put a net societal benefit of US$230 million over the 50-year useful life of the modifications. We noted some of the success in an earlier blog post on New York.
What is more, the CDC compared how much the US Federal Government allocated to the Transportation Alternatives Program in 2017 (US$835 million). That money goes to local governments to build bicycle and pedestrian improvements. Costing seven times more, were the medical bills to treat pedestrian and cyclist injuries.
Prevention costs less, safety programs can work. Participating in Walk to School Day is open to anyone, and is monitored for success. We can all learn from it. Just put one foot in front of the other.
Our own Be Alert program
To raise awareness, improve visibility and to reduce the risk for vulnerable road users, Trimtag Trading Inc. created our own Be Alert! road safety products. Our high-visibility and reflective woven decals and stickers are easy to apply to bike helmets, backpacks, and clothing and vehicle windows, even eco-friendly drive thru containers. Our program aims to encourage awareness and active attention to road safety, especially for the most vulnerable road users: children, pedestrians and cyclists. See our Be Alert products here, or contact us about a custom program for your own safety program.