The Patrick Administration is encouraging students, parents and school officials to celebrate International Walk to School Day (iWalk) on Wednesday, October 9. This annual event is presented by MassDOT’s Safe Routes to School Program, which works with more than 600 partner schools in 171 communities to promote walking and bicycling to school in order to improve students’ health, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality in Massachusetts.
“Safe Routes to School works to fulfill MassDOT’s mission of building healthier, safer and more livable communities that allow for students to safely walk or bike to school,” said MassDOT Secretary Richard A. Davey. “Safe Routes to School encourages walking and bicycling to school as a healthy means of physical activity. The program seeks to also reduce traffic congestion which leads to an improvement of the overall environment.”
Thousands of elementary and middle school children will celebrate at hundreds of walking events throughout the Commonwealth and will join millions of other students around the world. In 2012, more than 40,000 students at 175 Massachusetts elementary and middle schools participated in events for iWalk. These included a 300 student, multi-school event walk around Boston Common that celebrated Massachusetts’ 500th Safe Routes Partner School – a major milestone for the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School program.
The Massachusetts Safe Routes to School program is sponsored by MassDOT with funds from the Federal Highway Division. Safe Routes to School models of inclusiveness emphasize a collaborative, community-focused approach that fosters mutual partnerships between advocacy groups, law enforcement, education leaders and public health departments that all work together to promote safer routes for children to get to school. Participating schools also qualify for financial support for improvements to sidewalks and other infrastructure surrounding the schools. The program serves over 600 elementary and middle schools in over 170 communities throughout the Commonwealth. School partners receive year-round pedestrian and bicycle safety education instruction as well as engagement initiatives tailored to meet each school’s physical fitness, safety and environmental priorities. For more information, visit www.mass.gov/massdot/saferoutes
In 1969, 48 percent of American students bicycled or walked to school, but today, that number is less than 16 percent. In some communities, school-related traffic can contribute up to 25 percent of morning rush hour traffic volumes, as well as significant air pollution. School walking and biking programs provide a great opportunity to address these issues.
The United States, Canada and the United Kingdom joined together in 2000 to create International Walk to School Day. Over 2.5 million walkers were estimated to have participated. This year, more than 6,500 schools in the United States are estimated to take part in International Walk to School Day. Approximately 4 million people from more than 40 countries will participate.
To find out how your school can participate, contact Rebecca Cyr at 857-368-8657 or Rebecca.Cyr@state.ma.us or visit www.Mass.gov/MassDOT/SafeRoutes.