On October 5, 2011 thousands of students, parents and communities representing more than 3,200 schools across America will be celebrating the simple act of walking and bicycling to school by participating in International Walk to School Day.
Now in its 14th year, this one-day event in the U.S. is a part of an international effort in more than 40 countries to celebrate the many benefits of safely walking and bicycling to school and to encourage more families to consider getting out of the car and onto their feet on the way to school.
International Walk to School Day has a strong presence in Northeast Florida with fourteen local schools registered to participate in the event. Several of those schools are also conducting long-term Safe Routes to School programs with infrastructure and education initiatives designed to facilitate and encourage safe walking and biking to school.
The Health Planning Council received a grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Foundation through the Healthy Jacksonville Childhood Obesity Coalition to develop a pilot Safe Routes to School program. The pilot program will help schools by facilitating the implementation of Infrastructure Improvement Grants offered by the Florida Department of Transportation. In addition to making physical changes to the built environment through sidewalks, street crossings, street signs, traffic signals and bicycle lanes, there is an education component to promote healthy and safe lifestyles. There is a deficit in pedestrian and bicycling safety education for middle school students. The pilot program being developed at Julia Landon College Preparatory (JCLP) Middle School makes environmental changes which facilitate safe walking and bicycling, and also augments the critical education needed around healthy and safe lifestyles.
In an economy where public schools need additional resources and community support, this program offers both. Parents and community volunteers along with the District 5 City Council Representative, Lori Boyer, will be accompanying students on the morning walk to JCLP. Councilwoman Boyer had this to say regarding the Walk to School Day: “Walking or biking to school is one of the simplest and most effective ways to build more exercise into the daily lives of our children. I applaud the efforts of the Health Planning Council and participating schools in working to provide a safer environment, from both traffic and crime perspectives, and to better educate children with regard to their personal safety. Walking to and from school was a fun, social, part of my childhood and something I looked forward to even in bad weather.”
The Health Planning Council congratulates all the schools participating throughout the Northeast Florida region and the nation, and we encourage parents, students, educators and community members to contact their local school to see how they can make their communities healthier by supporting the International Walk to School Day. We also encourage drivers to take special care on October 5th in light of the many children that will be walking and biking to school on that day.
The Northeast Florida schools registered for International Walk to School Day are:
Andrew Robinson Elementary School, Bunnell Elementary School, Cypress Creek Elementary School, Deltona Lakes Elementary School, Heritage Middle School, Holly Hill School, Julia Landon College Prep And Leadership Development School, Mcrae Elementary School, Rymfire Elementary School, Sadie T. Tillis Elementary School, Silver Sands Middle School, South Daytona Elementary School, Spirit Elementary School, and Westside Elementary School.
To view the names and locations of all registered U.S. schools participating in Walk to School Day 2011, visit www.walktoschool.org/who/index.cfm.
For past photos of International Walk to School Day activities, visit: www.iwalktoschool.org/photos.
About The National Center for Safe Routes to School
Established in May 2006, the National Center for Safe Routes to School assists states and communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bicycle to school. The National Center serves as the clearinghouse for the federal Safe Routes to School program. The organization also provides technical support and resources and coordinates online registration efforts and provides technical support and resources for U.S. Walk to School Day and facilitates worldwide promotion and participation. The National Center is part of the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. For more information, visit www.saferoutesinfo.org.