From our friends over at the baddriversmakemecrazy blog, we’re reminded of the importance of safe pedestrian behavior and how knowing the pedestrian rules of the road is so important for college students, many of whom do a lot of walking around campus and town.
But what if that college student grew up in an environment where he or she was driven everywhere and thus never learned about safe walking and biking before setting foot on campus at age 18? The reality that people often forget is that bicycling and walking are crucially important life skills that help us be safe and healthy for our entire lives. And here at GMTMA, we want to make sure that kids learn these skills as early as possible. Just like a Driver’s Ed class that teaches behind-the-wheel skills, we want kids to have the skills necessary to safely get around on their own two feet or two wheels.
That’s why we are involved in the national Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program to help kids learn about safe walking and biking. Many of us remember a time when walking and bicycling to school was a part of everyday life. In 1969, about half of all students walked or bicycled to school. Today, however, the story is very different. Fewer than 15 percent of all school trips are made by walking or bicycling, one-quarter are made on a school bus, and over half of all children arrive at school in private automobiles.
This decline in walking and bicycling has had an adverse effect on traffic congestion and air quality around schools, as well as pedestrian and bicycle safety. In addition, a growing body of evidence has shown that children who lead sedentary lifestyles are at risk for a variety of health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Safety issues are a big concern for parents, who consistently cite traffic danger as a reason why their children are unable to bicycle or walk to school.
The purpose of the Federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program is to address these issues head on. At its heart, the SRTS Program empowers communities to make walking and bicycling to school a safe and routine activity once again. The Program makes funding available for a wide variety of programs and projects, from building safer street crossings to establishing programs that encourage children and their parents to walk and bicycle safely to school. The life skills learned in these programs will serve our children when they first leave the nest for college, and for their entire lives.
Want to get involved in our Safe Routes to School initiative? Contact us! Email Rebecca Hersh at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.