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AASHTO Journal

LaHood, State DOTs Participate in International Walk to School Day
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood celebrated International Walk to School Day on Wednesday by joining elementary school students in Silver Spring, Maryland, to showcase the federal Safe Routes to School program and to highlight first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative.

"The Safe Routes to School program helps ensure that children have a safe way to walk or bike to school," LaHood said in a statement. "It's important that we provide students with options on how to get to school, while promoting exercise and healthy lifestyles."

As the childhood obesity rate in the U.S. increases, more emphasis has been placed on encouraging kids to exercise. One approach entails having them walk to school rather than be driven by their parents. The 2009 National Household Travel Survey found 13% of children ages 5 to 14 usually walked or biked to school compared with 48% of students in 1969.

"We know this program has been enormously effective because the steady decline, since 1969, in the number of kids walking or biking to school has been stabilized," LaHood wrote on his blog. "And as we made our way down the street this morning, I was reminded yet again of this program's extraordinary work."

More than 3,100 schools in states across the country participated in International Walk to School Day this year. Events held in other states include:

  • Georgia Transportation Commissioner Vance Smith Jr. joined students, parents, faculty, and staff of Atlanta's Mary Lin Elementary School in greeting those walking to school.
  • The Colorado Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to School Program participated in 200 events to promote and inform children and parents about the benefits of safely walking and biking to school.
  • The Idaho Transportation Department recognized the Yellow Jacket Walking School Bus at Falls Valley Elementary School as a successful Safe Routes to School program. (A "walking school bus" is the term used to describe an organized group of kids and a parent chaperone walking to school together.)
  • The South Carolina Department of Transportation held events that 50,000 students, parents, and teachers participated in. The events focused on creating safe routes for children to walk to school.

More information is available at www.walktoschool.org.

10/8/2010
Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.