International Walk to School Events
Walking to Vallecito School in San Rafael, California
International Walk to School Day, held in October each year, joins children and adults from around the world to celebrate walking and bicycling to school.
This event can be a fun way to kick off a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program. In fact, many participating communities use the event to work towards creating safe environments that support walking and bicycling every day. A survey of U.S. Walk to School Coordinators in 2002 found that 43 percent were working towards making permanent changes in conjunction with their event, and that percentage is on the rise (Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center [PBIC], 2004; PBIC, 2005a). In 2005, over one-half of registered events were part of ongoing activities at the school to promote bicycling and walking (PBIC, 2005b).
Since it began in the US in 1997, participation both within the US and in other countries has grown every year. The event’s popularity led to the establishment of October as Walk to School Month, giving communities the flexibility to celebrate on a single day, week or throughout the month. Information about how to register for and plan a local event can be found at www.walktoschool.org. Also see the International Walk to School Reports.
Walkability and bikeability checklists
Walkability and bikeability checklists are designed for use by parents, children, school officials and other community members to assess the safety conditions of the route to school. They are often used during special events to get children and adults to think about what is good and what needs to be improved along the school route. Results are summarized and shared with decision makers and media to help gain support for needed improvements. Easy to use tools like the Walkability and Bikeability Checklists are good ways for the public to identify the issues that need to be addressed. See Engineering for information about other assessment tools.
Putting It Into Practice: International Walk to School Day
Hinsdale Consolidated School District, Hinsdale, IL
A few years ago, Hinsdale parents, school administration and community leaders were concerned about the increasing traffic congestion and the decreasing number of walkers around their seven neighborhood schools. Through collaboration with schools, villages and other governing bodies, their first Walk to School event was held.
The first year's celebration was promoted with the slogans, "Feel the Power of the Fourth" and "May the Fourth be With You", and signs with the Star Wars' Yoda on them. The "Star Wars" theme was used to remind participants of the October 4th Walk to School date. As part of the day, participants were asked to complete walkability checklists in order to learn more about safety concerns along walk routes. Students and their families along with caregivers, police, firefighters, local, state and federal political leaders, teachers and staff, all wearing "walk to school" buttons, arrived at school on foot. A short flag pole ceremony and recognition of dignitaries and supporters wrapped up the event.
The Walk to School celebration described here as well as those held in subsequent years brought visibility to pedestrian safety concerns, which helped build support for a planned "network" of sidewalks, with the focus on providing walkways to schools, parks, and other locations generating pedestrian traffic. Other school based activities, including classroom lessons, mileage clubs and incentives have been initiated to meet the interest in promoting walking.
Source: DeVahl, King, & Williamson, 2005
Putting It Into Practice: Swansfield Walk To School Day
Swansfield Elementary School, Columbia, MD
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Toole
Swansfield Elementary School in Columbia, MD held its first Walk to School Day in 2005. The event was so popular that the school launched a Safe Routes to School program soon afterwards. From the outset, Swansfield's program involved students with disabilities. During Walk-to-School days, the school designated an alternative bus drop-off location a short distance from the school (along a school walking route) so that children who could not walk to school would be able to participate — including students with disabilities who receive special busing services. Teachers and parent volunteers were posted at the alternative location to assist special education students so that they were fully involved in the event and were able to walk to school with their peers.
In addition to ensuring that SRTS encouragement programs included students with disabilities, Swansfield used SRTS grant money (including federal and local funds) to improve accessibility to the campus, including eliminating key sidewalk gaps and installing ADA-compliant curb ramps.