Start a Walk to School Day
State departments of health should work together with departments of transportation and education to establish a Walk to School Day. Childhood obesity is an epidemic, and evidence has shown that sedentary lifestyles are a major cause. Walking is the easiest form of exercise for children and adults alike. Yet, most students do not walk to school because barriers that make walking unsafe, or because their homes are too far from their schools. Establishing a Walk to School Day can encourage communities to increase opportunities for students to walk to school and make them more aware of the barriers to such activity.
Walk to School Day originated in 1997 in Chicago. In 2006, schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia held Walk to School events to promote physical activity, safety and concern for the environment. Many communities and states use Walk to School events to kick-off "Safe Routes to School" programs or to build more interest and support for walking and bicycling (see Policy #5, "Establish a 'Safe Routes to School' Program, in this section).
The State can encourage local governments and school boards to designate a Walk to School Day by funding or otherwise supporting local efforts through the departments of education, transportation and health. Starting a Walk to School Day involves gathering interested parties at schools and throughout communities to promote the idea that students should walk to school in supervised groups along safe routes.
Interested schools are encouraged to register their intentions at the International Walk to School Web site. Doing so will increase awareness of local and statewide support for the event. Also, community leaders will be able to learn about practices in other communities.
- California’s Walk to School Day
Five California schools participated in Walk to School Day in 1998, and the state Department of Public Health has funded Walk to School programs since 1999. California's Walk to School headquarters provides resources such as letters and fact sheets to schools and organizations looking to implement Walk to School activities.
Taking into account California's diverse population, many of these resources are available in multiple languages. The Walk to School headquarters estimates that 1,800 schools in California will participate in this year's activities.
— California’s Walk to School Day
- Washington’s "Walk to School Day"
In collaboration with Safe Kids Washington, the Washington Department of Health has sponsored a Walk to School Day for schools across the state for many years. The program raises awareness about how walkable the community is (or is not), promotes pedestrian safety, and allows community leaders, parents and children to share time together.
The event is timed each October to coincide with International Walk Your Child to School Day. Safe Kids Coalition volunteers, healthcare workers, police, firefighters and other safety advocates come together to raise awareness of and provide support for safe walking and biking programs. Many schools hold Walk to School assemblies, where children are given reflective zipper pulls and T-shirts to reinforce their awareness of the rules for safe walking. And parents and grandparents are encouraged to join the students on their walks.
— Washington Department of Health