Ditch the car for Walk or Bike to School Day


Last updated 9/25/2019 at 4:13pm | View PDF

Oct. 2 is National Walk or Bike to School Day, the 22nd annual observance of the campaign promoting healthier student lifestyles and safer streets and neighborhoods.

Hinsdale schools are encouraging their families to make car-free commutes on Wednesday, a wonderful advantage to being in a town with neighborhood schools. Various activities are planned for staff and families will gather to kick off the day together.

The National Center for Safe Routes to School on its website (https://www.walkbiketoschool.org) unpacks the benefits to kids — and the larger community — of eschewing the engine for one’s own energy to get to school.

When walking or biking, parents and children get to appreciate things they don’t notice while driving, like listening to the sounds of the blocks along the way, seeing friends and feeling more connected with neighbors. Walking and bicycling events celebrate these experiences and help make them possible for others.

Walking and bicycling to school enables children to incorporate the regular physical activity they need each day while also forming healthy habits that can last a lifetime. Regular physical activity helps children build strong bones, muscles and joints, and it decreases the risk of obesity. In contrast, insufficient physical activity can contribute to chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and adolescents get one hour or more of physical activity each day. Research suggests that physically active kids are more likely to become healthy, physically active adults, underscoring the importance of developing the habit of regular physical activity early.

When families decide to lace up their sneakers or strap on their bike helmets to get to school instead of riding in a car, they help reduce the amount of air pollutants emitted by automobiles.

Fewer cars on the road also means less traffic congestion. According to the 2011 National Center for Safe Routes to School report, personal vehicles taking students to school accounted for 10 to 14 percent of all personal vehicle trips made during peak morning commute times.

Research shows that communities with higher rates of walking and bicycling also tend to have lower crash rates for all travel modes.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reported that in 2009, 203,000 children ages 15 and younger were injured in motor vehicles crashes; 15,000 of those injured were pedestrians. To reduce the risk of injury, children and adults need to learn safe walking and bicycling skills and drivers need to be conditioned to watch for others using the road. Also, any safety problems along routes to school need to be identified and fixed.

Full schedules leave many of short on opportunities to connect with neighbors. Modern technology allows us to communicate without meeting face to face. But when we make a concerted effort to get out of our automated routines, the people and environment right around us take on new significance.

So embrace Walk or Bike to School Day. Make it a commute to remember.


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