Karlie Mitchell, community health educator, Bear River Health Department
Walking to school is good for a child’s body. It contributes to up to two thirds of the recommended amount of daily physical activity. Walking or biking to school is also a fun and great way to connect with friends and other people at school.
Today, fewer and fewer children walk to school. A decrease in physical activity in addition to other factors have led to an increase in overweight children.
The State of Utah is aware of the situation, and has legislation in place to support children walking to school. Schools are required to have a Safe Routes to School route mapped out. A school’s safety committee oversees annual updates to their route, making sure it continues to be safe and meets the needs of changing neighborhoods.
Some parents create a Walking School Bus or Bike Train as an another way to ensure safety to and from school. It’s like a carpool. One adult goes with the children to school, but the children stay active by walking or biking along. Parents can also use the Walking School Bus app to coordinate walking groups and drop-off locations.
If parents are concerned about the route their child takes to school, consider these questions:
- Is there room to walk?
- Are there sidewalks?
- Are there loose dogs?
- What helps you cross the street?
- Is there too much traffic?
- How do drivers behave?
- Do they yield to pedestrians?
- Do they obey speed limits?
- Does the environment feel safe?
- Is there criminal activity?
If you have questions about your route, talk to the principal at your child’s school, the local health department or city leaders about improving your route. When communities work together, our children can experience the benefits of walking to school.
How you can support walking to school:
- Know your safe route
- Start a Walking School Bus
- Encourage your kids to walk or bike to school
- Participate in the Walk More in Four challenge in September
- Promote Walk and Bike to School Day (Oct. 4, 2017 and May 9, 2018)