Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Walk and Bicycle to School Day

Sent to you by Steve Sherlock via Google Reader:

via Commonwealth Conversations: Transportation by Klark Jessen on 5/4/10

Safe Route To School Governor Deval Patrick today encouraged students, parents, and school officials to celebrate Massachusetts Walk and Bicycle to School Day this Wednesday, May 5, 2010 as part of the Commonwealth's Safe Routes to School Program. The Safe Routes to School Program works with students, parents, school staff, and local police in 108 communities and more than 294 schools to promote walking and bicycling to school in order to improve students' health, reduce traffic congestion, and improve air quality in Massachusetts communities.

"Students who can walk or bicycle to school should do it," said Governor Patrick. "It's a great way to clear the cobwebs and arrive ready to work."

On May 5, 2010, thousands of elementary and middle school aged children will celebrate at hundreds of walking and bicycling events throughout the Commonwealth.  Through the Safe Routes to Schools program, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and MassRIDES provide students, parents, and the school community with education and training on transportation, safety, and health benefits from walking and bicycling to school. Participating schools also qualify for financial support for improvements to sidewalks and other infrastructure surrounding schools.

The Safe Routes to School program is a key component of the Healthy Transportation Compact, an initiative of the Patrick-Murray Administration's historic transportation reform that promotes collaboration between the departments of transportation and public health to adopt best practices, increase efficiency, and achieve positive health outcomes through the coordination of land use, transportation, and public health policy. Safe Routes to School enables direct collaboration between the Commonwealth and schools and communities to promote walking and bicycling transportation as fun, safe, and sustainable travel options.

The Safe Routes to Schools program provides educational resources and safety trainings to participating schools to develop skills in young students to safely walk or bike to school. In addition, the program provides technical expertise to identify and fund infrastructure safety improvements to schools such as sidewalk and traffic calming improvements and on or off-street bicycle facilities and parking to help reduce speeds and increase bicycle and pedestrian access around schools.

In 1969, 42% of American students bicycled or walked to school, but today, less than 16% of children walk or bicycle to classes. Nationally, 19% of children age 6-11 years are overweight, more than triple the percentage 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% of morning rush hour traffic volumes, as well as significant air pollution.

Massachusetts established the Commonwealth's Walk to School Day in 2007. Since then, partner schools have conducted over 500 walking and bicycling events to celebrate Walk and Bicycle to School Day.

Safe Routes to School is federally-funded and administered by the MassRIDES travel options program on behalf of MassDOT. To find out how your school can participate, contact Jennifer Solomon at jennifer.solomon@state.ma.us or visit www.commute.com.

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