The Damsel often complains about old fashioned things being lost. This frustration is one of the main reasons she began the Old School. So when she recently received this guest post, she thumped her fist on the table and said, “Here, here.”
After all, in the olden days, we used to walk to school uphill/both ways/snowdrifts. Obviously.
What Happened to Walking and Biking to School?
Years ago, kids enjoyed the camaraderie of walking or biking to school with friends. These days, camaraderie consists mostly of silly text messages, Facebook conversations, and increasingly less face-to-face time. However, even this “face-to-face” time is often disrupted by text messages and phone calls! Oh my. And what’s worse, kids aren’t getting nearly enough exercise today. Walking to school has become more of a death march.
Walking or biking to class is rarely the norm anymore. According to Safe Routes to School, in 1969 about 50 percent of children walked or rode a bicycle to school and 87% of kids living within one mile did so. These days, less than 15% of school children walk or bike to school. This is one of the reasons contributing to the declines in the activity level, health, and even the independence of children.
Benefits of Kids Walking or Biking to School
Not surprisingly, walking or biking to school decreases the chances of kids becoming obese. One study indicates that kids who walk or bike to school have less excess weight and body fat than kids who get a ride each day. Your response to this is probably, “Well, duh!” But hey, researchers need something to research!
Children who walk or ride their bike are also more likely to be alert in the classroom throughout the day. Additionally, they’re more likely to go outside and play after they get home from school. Being outdoors provides a variety of benefits to kids.
Walking to and from school may stimulate kids to lead more active lives. This means less time playing video games and hanging out at popular websites such as Facebook and MySpace. Walking to school in groups also provides kids with opportunities to interact with peers and build social skills.
The National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends children get 60 minutes of physical activity at least four days per week. Walking to school and back home is an easy way to get exercise. Also, if more kids walked to school, automobile traffic near schools would decrease at pick-up and drop-off times – which increases pedestrian safety and decreases air pollution.
As much as 20 to 30 percent of morning traffic consists of parents driving their kids to school, and the top cause of major injuries and death to children ages 1 to 17 in the U.S. is traffic related crashes. Cutting down on morning traffic is one way to combat this issue.
Parents have a number of concerns that prevent them from letting their kids walk or bike to school, some of which are certainly legitimate. These include the distance, traffic-related dangers, weather, and safety concerns. Distance to school is the most commonly reported barrier that is preventing children from walking or riding a bicycle to school. However, private vehicles account for 50% of school trips between 1/4 and 1/2 mile – a distance children can easily cover by walking or biking. Even though they may complain incessantly about it (and probably will).
Walking School Bus (WSB)
Parents’ concerns can be diminished or eliminated by programs in which kids go to school in groups supervised by adults. PedNet recruits and trains qualified volunteers to become become Walking School Bus leaders and supervise the children as they walk to school. The WSB routes typically begin in a neighborhood within one mile of a school.
Safe Routes to School Program
According to a California study, schools that received infrastructure improvements via the Safe Routes to School program had increases in students walking and biking in the range of 20 to 200 percent.
As we’ve all heard from our parents, people used to walk ten miles uphill each way in blinding snowstorms to get to and from school. All exaggerations aside, there are undoubtedly many good things that can come from more kids walking or biking to school. If we can address the barriers that parents and their children deal with, perhaps walking and biking to school will once again become the norm.
Brian Jenkins writes about many different topics pertaining to students and health, including college degrees in athletic training, for BrainTrack.com.