International Walk to School Day is tomorrow
By Keshia Pollack and Alicia Samuels
On Wednesday, Baltimore schoolchildren will join students from around the world by participating in International Walk to School Day. Now in its 15th year, this global initiative aims not only to help keep students healthy but also to improve air quality (fewer motor vehicles, less pollution) and decrease traffic congestion (nationally, as much as 20 percent to 30 percent of morning traffic is generated by parents driving their children to school).
To many readers, walking to school may not seem like news. If you were born before 1960, almost half of your peers likely walked or biked to school. Currently, however, only 13 percent of children ages 5 to 14 do, meaning the vast majority are missing out on this daily opportunity for physical activity.
The reasons behind this are complicated, but urban planning is one important factor. Many of us now live in communities that were designed for driving at the expense of walking, and the distance from our homes to resources such as shops or schools is prohibitive. (The "neighborhood school" may be quite far from the neighborhood). Indeed, research shows that among children who do not usually walk to school, distance is the most common barrier, followed by traffic danger.