Celebrate Massachusetts Walk & Bike to School Day
The Dolbeare and Walton Elementary Schools will be celebrating Massachusetts Walk and Bike to School Day on Tuesday, May 3 (Walton’s rain date is May 4; Dolbeare’s is May 9). The Woodville Elementary School put a unique twist on the event and will hold a series of “Woodville Walk to School Days” on April 29, May 20 and June 17. The events are in conjunction with the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School program.
Safe Routes to School is designed to address pressing transportation and public health issues. Many adults over the age of 30 remember enjoying walking and bicycling home from school: chatting with friends; taking a shortcut across a field; stopping at a friend’s house or the library; inspecting bugs; sloshing through puddles. But today it’s different.
In 1969, roughly 48% of students bicycled or walked to school. Today less than 15% of children walk or bicycle to classes. Nationally, 19% of children age 6-11 years are overweight, more than triple the percentages from 1969. In Massachusetts, almost one-third of high school and middle school students are overweight or obese. And in some communities, school-related traffic can contribute up to 25 percent of morning rush hour traffic volumes, as well as significant air pollution.
The Massachusetts Safe Routes to Schools program can help change this. It promotes walking and bicycling to school, which helps reduce air pollution, fuel consumption and traffic congestion, while increasing the health, safety, and physical activity of elementary and middle school students. It also helps build connections between families, schools and the broader community.
Massachusetts established the Commonwealth’s Walk and Bike to School Day in 2007. Since then, partner schools have conducted over 600 walking and bicycling events to celebrate Walk and Bike to School Day. Over 380 elementary and middle schools across the state collaborate with MassRIDES, the state’s travel options service under the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, on the Safe Routes to School program to organize activities and events which encourage students to walk and bicycle to school.
The Dolbeare Elementary School partnered with MassRIDES, along with Wakefield Climate Action Project and Wakefield’s School Health Leadership Team to pilot a Safe Routes to School Walking School Bus program in fall 2008. The program proved quite successful—in 2009 it garnered media attention at the local and national levels, including the Boston Globe, Fox 25 News, and Good Morning America. Last year the Greenwood, Woodville and Walton Elementary Schools joined the effort and have partnered with MassRIDES to roll out walking programs at their schools. (The Greenwood celebrates International Walk to School Day in the fall.)
Please join the Massachusetts Walk and Bike to School Day celebration by safely walking or biking to school. You may find you enjoy it so much you will want to walk and bike all year long.