It’s good for you. It makes you feel better. It doesn’t take much time. A lot of other people are already doing it. And it's free.
So why not put on a pair of athletic shoes and join your children on a march to school next week as part of International Walk To School, an event that promotes a safe, non-polluting, calorie-consuming activity observed worldwide?
The Idaho Transportation Department, through its Safe Routes to School program, joins parents, community activists, school administrators, teachers and students in promoting participation in the walk next week. Initially, the Walk to School event was observed on a single day; this year, however, it has become a month-long celebration of alternative transportation to school.
Josephine O’Connor, Safe Routes to School coordinator for ITD, said a number of Idaho communities plan to participate, from Idaho Falls and Twin Falls to Boise and Sandpoint.
The Boise School District has planned events at 10 schools. Two others, Lowell and Koelsch elementary schools, will have events organized through Safe Kids Treasure Valley.
Boise schools participating in the Walk to School event are: Adams, Highlands, Roosevelt, Shadow Hills, Cynthia Mann, Liberty, White Pine, Riverside, Hillcrest and McKinley.
Skits on pedestrian safety and tips on how to walk to and from school safely are among the activities planned at Lincoln Elementary School in Twin Falls on Monday (Oct. 2). The event will include a pep rally and formal kickoff for kindergarten through third grades from 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. ITD’s Mark McNeese and Bruce Christensen plan to participate.
Children, parents and teachers will assemble at Drury Park at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday and walk to school. A similar walk is planned at IB Perrine, beginning at 7:15 a.m. Wednesday.
Sandpoint, one of the charter communities in the Walk to School program, plans activities at Washington, Kootenai, Farmin-Stidwell elementary schools, Sandpoint Middle School, Sandpoint Charter School and Lake Pend Oreille High School.
The Sandpoint observance, scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, is expected to draw nearly 1,500 students, parents, school staff members, Rotarians and community leaders. They will assemble at 22 locations in Sandpoint and begin walks to school.
For some it will be a walk they take daily, for others a new experience. Organizers, local Rotary Clubs and Bonner General Hospital hope the event will inspire many to continue walking to school and become more physically active. Students are designing signs to carry using materials donated by Staples and Sandpoint Building Supply. Juice boxes for student walkers will be provided by Safeway Stores.
Motorists who drive on Wednesday morning are asked to be especially careful of student groups. Parents who normally drive their young to school are encouraged to deliver them to a walking group instead.
For information on other participation, or to organize an activity, contact your school administrators or school district.
Promotion of a formal program to encourage walking to school began in Hertfordshire County, England, in 1994. Three years later the Partnership for a Walkable America embraced the idea by launching its first walk in Chicago. Later in 1997, Los Angeles also organized a walk. The same year, Walk to School Week received is own dedicated week in mid-May in Great Britain.
More than 170,000 Americans from 58 communities across the U.S. participated in a Walk to School activity in 1998. Ireland, New Zealand and Canada joined the international activity the following year.
The first International Walk to School Day event took place Oct. 4, 2000, in Canada, Great Britain, the U.S., Ireland, Cyprus, Gibraltar and The Isle of Man. Australia and New Zealand coordinated walks throughout the year. In all, organized activities drew more than 2.5 million participants.
Nearly 3 million people from 21 countries took part in 2002. In subsequent years the numbers grew to 28 countries in 2002, 29 in 2003, 36 in 2004 and 37 last year. The number of participants has remained steady the past five years.
“Communities across the country are successfully using Walk to School to increase awareness, build vital community coalitions, identify barriers and solutions and to generate support for permanent change,” according to "iwalk," the international Walk to School organization.
“Walking is a great way for adults and kids to be active,” according to the U.S. Walk To School organization. “Lack of physical activity is a major cause of chronic illness and death for our country’s adults...
“There are plenty of great reasons to walk to school – less traffic, safer streets, cleaner air – but one of the best is that children and parents will be healthier… Walking to school is a missed opportunity. Roughly 10 percent of children nationwide walk to school regularly. Even among those kids living within a mile of their school, only 25 percent are regular walkers.”