It is back-to-school time and motorists need to be extra alert as more children are afoot. Solano Transportation Authority’s Safe Routes to School program works with local schools, parents, students, public health staff, engineers and law enforcement to promote safely walking to school.
Families want their children to start off the year ready to learn. A good way to get a head start at school (after a healthy breakfast) is to encourage children to walk to school every morning. Studies show that walking or riding a bike or scooter to school daily actually improves scholastic performance.
Physical activity boosts children’s energy level, revs up their brains and helps them settle down to study. Teachers notice their students arrive more alert and ready for class. Local parents who have walked their children to and from school have realized unexpected benefits, too – they are losing weight and getting more fit!
SR2S works with schools, parents and students to provide safety education and establish adult-supervised “walking school buses.” A “walking school bus” is a group of students walking to school supervised by an adult. The goals of SR2S are to increase the number of children who walk and bike to school, reduce traffic congestion and air pollution around schools and improve children’s health by increasing physical activity.
Solano Transportation Authority and Solano County Health and Social Services, Solano Public Health are starting their seventh year of bringing SR2S programs into local schools. Last year, 12,131 students in 43 elementary schools participated in 77 events that included bike rodeos, safety assemblies and “walk and roll” weeklong events. During bike rodeos, students navigate riding courses demonstrating safety skills and traffic rules. SR2S staff checks each student’s helmet for correct fit and inspects bicycles for hazards such as wobbly seats, worn tires or brakes. Safety assemblies provide training and education to students about walking and biking safely to school and “walk and roll” events encourage walking and biking to and from school.
SR2S relies on dedicated parent volunteers and on Parent Teacher Associations or Parent Teacher Organizations to organize and conduct the walking school buses to safely commute to and from school.
Walking and bicycling in supervised groups to and from school is fun and it also saves gas money and reduces traffic congestion, which increases air pollution around schools. Families who live too far from school to walk are encouraged to “school-pool” (carpool) part way, or park away from the school and walk the rest of the way.
Everyone can support SR2S when driving by always watching for pedestrians and cyclists, especially near schools.
For suggested walking routes to your school, visit the SR2S webpage at http://solanosr2s.ca.gov.
To find out how you can get involved in SR2S and/or International Walk to School Day Oct. 8, 2014 in your school, contact the SR2S program at 707-399-3222.
Tracy Nachand is Senior Health Education Specialist,Solano County Health & Social Services, Solano Public Health, a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health.