On Oct. 9, students across Santa Barbara, Goleta, Montecito and Carpinteria will join school children around the world who are making a commitment to a healthier lifestyle by walking or bicycling to school on International Walk to School Day.
The local event is being organized locally by COAST’s Safe Routes to School program. Working in conjunction with school parent champions, nearly all South Coast public schools will be participating this year, a new record! At each school there will be fun reception tables greeting kids and parents with healthy snacks, this year including free organic Clif Kid Z Fruit Ropes, nutritional tips and school supplies for each school compliments of Clif Bar; the school’s band will be playing; and walkers and bicyclists will be eligible for donated raffle prizes.
Some schools will be organizing “walking school buses”: informal, parent-led walking groups. At Santa Barbara Junior High, the City of Santa Barbara and the SB Bike Coalition will host a free BMX stunt show for upper-grade students to enjoy by regional professional riders Team Soil, along with raffle prizes and free juice and healthy snacks.
COAST urges all drivers to be especially cautious on International Walk to School Day and watch for the extra foot and bicycle traffic around them.
In the United States, International Walk to School Day is expected to include up to 5,000 schools from all 50 states (last year saw 4,280 events, with California hosting the most at 495 events). Walkers from the United States will join children and adults in 40 or more countries around the world! Walk to School events work to create safer routes for walking and bicycling and emphasize the importance of issues such as increased physical activity among children (in efforts to reduce childhood obesity), improved pedestrian safety, reduced traffic congestion, concern for the environment and building connections between families, schools and the broader community.
“Communities are using walking and bicycling to school as the first step to change their culture and create environments that are more inviting for everyone, young and old,” said Lauren Marchetti, director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School.
International Walk to School Day is an exciting way to encourage students and families to think about the all the benefits of making that choice: saving money on transportation costs, living healthier lives and reducing traffic congestion and air pollution.
Kim Stanley-Zimmerman, COAST’s Safe Routes to School coordinator, added: “This is a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness for programs that improve public health, pedestrian and bicyclist safety and strengthen neighborhoods and communities. And we hope that schools will be inspired by this one-day event to implement ongoing (Walk & Roll) programs to keep students walking and biking safely to school.”
In past years, the participation rate at some schools has been so great that everybody marvels at how quiet and empty the streets and parking lot are ... a day with a little less traffic on the road and fewer emissions in the air!
— Kim Stanley-Zimmerman is coordinator of COAST’s Safe Routes to School program.