Safe Routes to School encouragement activities include:
- Walk and Bike to School Days
- Walk to School Day in October (or Walk to School Week, or Walktober)
- Bike to School Day in May (or Bike to School Week, or May is Bike Month)
- many schools combine modes and call these days or weeks Walk & Roll
- walking school buses or bike trains
- identification of safer walking and bicycling routes for students to and from school
- bike clubs at middle school level
- use of public transit at middle school and high school level
Walk to School Day is celebrated by schools throughout the United States. Some schools set up remote drop-off spots, so that students who are ususally driven to school have a chance to walk with their school mates. Even if walking not part of the regular schedule, this is a chance for student to experience the job and independence of walking. Family are encouraged to join in. Some schools call this Walk+Bike or Walk n’Roll to encourage all forms of active transportation. (http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/)
Bike to School Day is a similar celebration of the joy and practicality of bicycling.
Walking School Buses are organized groups of students under the supervision a parent or community volunteer (fingerprinted and background checked) along a pre-defined route to school, picking up students along the way, arriving in time for morning meal programs and school. These can occur as seldom as once a month during nice weather, and as often as every week year-round, or every day. Bike Trains are similarly organized, but move at the pace of bicyclists.
Walking Maps can be developed with the school and students that show safer routes to school, avoiding high speed arterials, intersections without appropriate pedestrian protection, and streets without sidewalks, while using pleasant, low speed and low traffic streets to and from school. Bike lanes and low stress bicycling streets can be shown.
Bike Clubs can be organized at middle school level. They include and reinforce the same bicycle skills and traffic awareness developed by the 4th/5th grade bicyclist education program, but emphasize group riding and adventure.
Transit Use is encouraged for middle and high school students as an alternative to motor vehicles and overly long walks to school. Not every school site has a bus route close enough or schedule that work, but those that do offer great alternatives. Students can get discount passes, and very low income or disabled students may receive free passes. Most transit trips start or end with walking or bicycling, so transit use also encourages active transportation.
Safe Routes to School supports physical activity throughout the day and life, in PE, recess, classrooms, to and from school, sports, and family activities. Physical activity provides an incredible number of benefits: weight management, brain development, life-long athletic skills, positive social skills, academic performance, mental health and resilience, development of independent judgement and action, and environmentally beneficial transportation. Walking or bicycling to and from school is one of the ways of achieving the 60 minutes minimum of physical activity that youth need every day (adults need 30 minutes minimum), though that may not be possible for every family and every day. The diagram below clearly shows the contribution of physical activity to academic performance.
Physical Activity Guidelines
In 2018, the US Department of Health and Human Services released the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition (PAG). Below is a small selection of key information from the document, applicable to school-age children.
Health Benefits Associated With Regular Physical Activity: Children and Adolescents
- Improved bone health (ages 3 through 17 years)
- Improved weight status (ages 3 through 17 years)
- Improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness (ages 6 through 17 years)
- Improved cardiometabolic health (ages 6 through 17 years)
- Improved cognition (ages 6 to 13 years)*
- Reduced risk of depression (ages 6 to 13 years)
Benefits of Physical Activity for Brain Health
- Cognition: Children ages 6 to 13 years: Improved cognition (performance on academic achievement tests, executive function, processing speed, memory)
- Depressed mood and depression: Children ages 6 to 17 years and adults: Reduced risk of depression; Reduced depressed mood
A number of very useful documents are available as supporting materials, listed below. Available in English and Spanish; other languages are not available at this time.
- PAG Move Your Way Kids Fact Sheet
- PAG Move Your Way Kids Fact Sheet (Spanish)
- PAG Move Your Way Fact Sheet for Parents
- PAG Move Your Way Fact Sheet for Parents (Spanish)
- PAG Move Your Way Poster for Kids
- PAG Move Your Way Poster for Kids (Spanish)
- PAG Move Your Way Poster for Parents
- PAG Move Your Way Poster for Parents (Spanish)
- PAG Move Your Way Video Tips for Getting Active as a Family
- PAG Move Your Way Video Tips for Getting Active as a Family (Spanish)
- PAG Move Your Way Parent Interactive Graphic
- PAG Move Your Way Parent Interactive Graphic (Spanish)