October 05, 2011 Kerala Taylor

How to get more kids walking and biking to school

How did you used to get to school? Perhaps you never trudged five miles through the snow—uphill each way—but if you walked or biked, you were part of the majority.

Not so anymore. While 71 percent of adults walked or rode their bikes to school as children, a mere 17 percent  of their own children currently do so. Fifty-three percent are driven by a parent. Sadly, these kids are missing out on a chance to be active and enjoy some fresh air before and after school – particularly during a time when outdoor play opportunities during the day are getting slashed to make room for more academics.

In honor of International Walk to School Day, it's a good time to think about how to institute a less car-dependent culture at our schools.

Parents often cite safety issues as one of the primary reasons they are reluctant to allow their children to walk to school, but there is always safety in numbers. A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. It can be as informal as two families taking turns walking their children to school, or as structured as a route with meeting points, a timetable, and a regularly rotating schedule of trained volunteers.

Driving is also tempting simply because it's fast and easy, which means that walking and biking might require a little added incentive. Boltage is a parent- and volunteer-driven initiative that uses a solar-powered device to count daily trips. Children and parents can view and manage their data online, and students receive awards based on activity level.

Within five years, this low-cost model has significantly increased physical activity and has spread to 35 schools in both affluent suburbs and low-income urban communities. To date, Boltage has tracked over 650,000 kid-powered miles, which have saved 58,000 gallons of gas.

Before and after Boltage.

Do you have other ideas for getting kids to school using the power of their own two legs?

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bright ideas, back to school, boltage, physical activity, bicycle, parenting