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Bringing Pedestrian Safety and Physical Activity Back to the School Commute

 

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Posted by Lauren Robinson

Lauren is the Communications Coordinator for the MA Department of Transportation

 

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When you get 20 minutes of exercise in the morning, for example walking to and from the T or riding your bike to the office, not only do you get a boost in energy, you’re also working towards maintaining a healthy heart and weight. Kids can reap these health benefits of active transportation too. However, only 1 out of 5 schoolchildren nationwide are walking or bicycling to school. The Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program, a federally funded initiative of MassDOT in cooperation with MassRIDES, is in pursuit to change that number by helping elementary and middle school students safely walk and bicycle to school through:

  • Bicycle and pedestrian safety and injury prevention education in schools
  • Funding infrastructure so students have access to safe bike paths and sidewalks around their neighborhood schools
  • Partnering with law enforcement, education leaders and public health departments to encourage students and families to participate in Safe Routes to School activities

Joining the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program benefits our communities in many ways. In addition to physical health, Safe Routes to School promotes a cleaner sustainable environment by reducing the number of cars traveling to and from school and emissions of harmful air pollutants. Most importantly, walking and bicycling to school is fun! Students and families can spend more time together being active and enjoy time outdoors.

The beginning of the school year brings a flurry of fun events for Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Partners, and schools interested in joining us, to participate in.

  • International Walk to School Day, a global celebration of children walking and bicycling to school, is Wednesday, October 3rd. Download our Tool Kit for ideas and themes to host an IWalk to School Day event!
  • The Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program is now “500 Partners and Growing”, becoming the first statewide model to enroll 500 School Partners! Visit our website for upcoming community walks and bike parades as we celebrate this milestone achievement
  • Everyone interested in learning about how to start a Safe Routes to School program in their community is encouraged to attend our annual FORUM, a day of educational workshops on a wide array of topics related to Safe Routes to School. Contact Lauren Robinson at lauren.a.robinson@state.ma.us to be notified when registration for this year’ FORUM is open.

Each of our 500 School Partners brings their own unique ideas to enhance and sustain their Safe Routes activities.

  • For Massachusetts Walk & Bike to School Day last May, the Lincoln School in Melrose, a Mass In Motion community, collaborated with the Melrose Food Services Coordinator to serve healthy snacks for every student who walked or biked to school that day.
  • Two School Partners in the new Mass in Motion community of Waltham, Whittemore Elementary and Northeast Elementary, have incorporated lessons on nutrition and healthy eating habits into their Safe Routes to School activities. By working with Healthy Waltham, both schools have opened a student fruit and vegetable garden to help educate students about where their food comes from, tend and harvest their vegetables! 

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For more information on the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program please contact Samantha Fonseca-Moreira, Statewide Coordinator at Samantha.fonseca-moreira@state.ma.us or follow us on Twitter @SafeRoutes_MA or Facebook.com/SafeRoutes.MA

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