As summer fades and children prepare for a new school year, Idaho's First Lady Lori Otter urges parents to revive an old tradition - encouraging children to walk or bike to school regularly.
Mrs. Otter wants schools and parents to put Oct. 3 on their calendars and to organize a walking event for "International Walk to School Day." More than 5,000 schools in the U.S. are expected to participate this year along with nearly 4 million people in approximately 40 countries worldwide. Registration for schools is under way at www.walktoschool.org-usa.
"Walking and biking to school is an easy way for children to get the 60 minutes of exercise they need per day," said Mrs. Otter, Idaho Safe Routes to School spokesperson. "Walking and biking to school is now an exception instead of the norm, and we are seeing the consequences in rising diabetes and obesity rates among children."
From her years teaching physical education and health, Mrs. Otter knows that walking or biking to school benefits children by increasing their physical activity. More children walking and biking to school help reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions near schools, and encourage increased emphasis on pedestrian safety in the community.
"As an educator, I know that children who are physically active arrive at school more alert and ready to learn," she said. "Adults can make walking and biking to school possible again by slowing down in school zones and yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks."
Walk-to-school events are conducted as part of the Safe Routes to School program organized by the Idaho Transportation Department. The community efforts are designed to improve the health and well being of children by making walking and bicycling to school safer, easier and more enjoyable.
In June, ITD awarded $1.5 million in federal funds for 21 projects statewide as part of Idaho's new Safe Routes to School program. ITD will begin accepting Letters of Intent to Apply for the second round of available funding for community-based programs during the month of October, beginning on Oct. 3, International Walk to School Day.
To learn more about Idaho's Safe Routes to School program contact Jo O'Connor, program coordinator, at 334-4475 or visit itd.idaho.gov.
Africa: Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa
Asia: China, India, Nepal, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Australasia
South America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia
North America: Canada, Mexico, United States
Central America: Cuba