Editorial...Let’s make this a generation of ‘walkers’Remember when students used to routinely walk to school? The dividing line between “the walkers” and “the bus kids” was often a matter of miles, since nearly every kid inside the city limits of most small towns was expected to walk or get to school by some means other than riding the bus.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Remember when students used to routinely walk to school? The dividing line between “the walkers” and “the bus kids” was often a matter of miles, since nearly every kid inside the city limits of most small towns was expected to walk or get to school by some means other than riding the bus.
Today, that is not nearly so much the case. According to an article in the New York Times, 40 years ago half of all students walked or bicycled to school. The Times reported that fewer than 15 percent travel on their own steam. One quarter take buses, and about 60 percent are transported in private automobiles, usually driven by a parent or, sometimes, a teenager.
Perhaps the demise of “the walkers” came with the advent of stalkers and child molesters who struck just often enough to send up red flags with parents and school administrators alike. Perhaps there was one too many car-pedestrian accidents in the vicinity of schools where traffic congestion and excited children proved to be a fatal mix.
In any case, today fewer and fewer children are walking to school, and sadly, they are paying the price – less exercise, more obesity, and greater incidence of chronic diseases such as diabetes.
There’s a move “afoot” to turn this trend around, however. Cities and communities throughout the country are trying to encourage more children to walk or bike to school.
Some communities are coming up with innovative ways to make the walk safer by embracing such programs as the “Walking School Bus,” where parents volunteer to walk or bike along with a group of neighborhood children to make sure they get to school and home safely.
Another solution that we’re hearing about more and more lately is the Safe Routes to School program, which provides grant funds for projects that will help more children safely walk or bike to school.
This summer and next, both Esko and the Fond du Lac Reservation will construct walking trails that will enable school children from distant neighborhoods to walk to school without having to go out in traffic. Cloquet is just beginning the process of evaluating its routes to school.
All other Minnesota elementary and middle schools and their partners are invited to apply for Safe Routes to School grant funds as well.
Applications for the latest round of funding are due Friday, April 27, at noon and are available at www.mndot.gov/saferoutes/.
Kindergarten through eighth-grade schools in Minnesota may apply for grants in two categories:
+ Planning assistance – Schools will receive expert assistance to complete a Safe Routes to School plan, which will analyze existing conditions, gather public input and identify potential infrastructure and non-infrastructure solutions.
+ Implementation grants – Schools will receive grant funds to support education, encouragement, enforcement or evaluation activities related to safe walking and bicycling to school.
Minnesota has $1.2 million available in these categories for 2012-13. All SRTS grants use federal funds, and no local match is required.
All non-profit organizations and government entities in Minnesota may be eligible partners, including tribal nations, schools, school districts, cities, counties and regional planning organizations.
For more information, visit www.mndot.gov/saferoutes/ or contact Lisa Bender at 651-366-4195 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Walking to school may not always be a walk in the park, but chances are that it will bring back a generation of young people who are happier, healthier and safer.