Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on September 29th, 2009 at 2:29 pm
(Photos © J. Maus)
On October 7th, schools across the country will take part in the annual Walk and Bike to School Day event. Hundreds of schools throughout Portland and Oregon have flourishing walk and bike to school programs and the next week’s event is an important kick-off to the Safe Routes to School season.
Both the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) are making big efforts to use the event to spread the word about their programs and to encourage schools to take part.
What’s the big deal about getting kids to walk and bike to school? According to the National Household Travel Survey, in 1969, 41 percent of children walked and biked to school compared to only 13 percent in 2001. In almost the same period of time, childhood obesity rates have more than tripled.
Elementary in SE Portland during
a Walk and Bike to School Day event
The BTA is leading a charge to reverse that trend. BTA Communications Coordinatory Margaux Mennesson says they’re coordinating a statewide effort centered around their WalkNBike.org website. So far, over 180 schools have registered on the site and the BTA has sent them promotional materials, information about the Safe Routes to School program and prizes for students who participate.
On the day of the event, the BTA is encouraging schools to gather “Dear Congress” letters from parents, kids, and administrators as part of a national campaign being coordinated by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. That organization is trying to garner influence on Capitol Hill so they can request a tripling of funding for Safe Routes in the upcoming federal transportation bill.
PBOT is also planning an event for Walk and Bike to School Day. On the morning of October 7th, James John Elementary in St. Johns will host a press conference featuring Portland Mayor Sam Adams, a member of the Portland Public School Board, and a Kaiser Permanente physician.
In a press release, PBOT said they’re committed to Safe Routes to School because they want to “improve childhood health by showing students and their parents that walking and biking to school is a beneficial, easy alternative to driving”.