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http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/sites/default/files/OfficialLogos/WTSD_Thumbnail_Color.jpgThe Patrick Administration is encouraging students, parents, and school officials to celebrate International Walk to School Day (iWalk) this Wednesday, October 8, 2014. Over 275 elementary and middle schools are expected to participate across the Commonwealth with students walking and bicycling to school in honor of the international celebration.

“Massachusetts continues to be a leader in Safe Routes to School initiatives,” said MassDOT Secretary Richard A. Davey. “Our partnerships and programs yield participation across the Commonwealth creating healthier and more active lifestyles for our youth.”

In 2013, Massachusetts came in third place for the highest registration rates in the country. One in eight Massachusetts schools participated in the celebration. Last year, every U.S. state participated in the global event with over 4,447 schools registered.

International Walk to School Day is a great way for schools to encourage active and healthy transportation, learn about pedestrian safety, and decrease traffic congestion and pollution. Safe Routes to School helps with programs that can help encourage these practices year-round.

“Fifty-four percent of last year’s registered events were part of ongoing walking or bicycling to school activities conducted throughout the year,” said Massachusetts Safe Routes Statewide Coordinator Erin Reed. “The events range from Walking School Bus routes, Park and Walks, Walk Across America, Walk on Wednesdays, and Bicycle Trains.”

This annual event within the Commonwealth is presented by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Program, which works with more than 660 partner schools in 180 communities to promote walking and bicycling to school in order to improve students’ health, reduce traffic congestion, and improve air quality in Massachusetts. International Walk to School Day began in 1997 with a single school, and continues to steadily grow each year, with new events making up 44 percent of this year’s count.

The Massachusetts Safe Routes to School program is sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), with funds from the Federal Highway Division. Safe Routes to School models of inclusiveness emphasize a collaborative, community-focused approach that fosters mutual partnerships between advocacy groups, law enforcement, education leaders and public health departments that all work together to promote safer routes for children to get to school. Participating schools also qualify for financial support for improvements to sidewalks and other infrastructure surrounding the schools. The program serves over 660 elementary and middle schools in over 180 communities throughout the Commonwealth. School partners receive year-round pedestrian and bicycle safety education instruction as well as educational/safety items tailored to meet each school’s physical fitness, safety and environmental priorities. For more information, visit www.mass.gov/massdot/saferoutes.

iWalk began in 2000 at the helm of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Over 2.5 million walkers were estimated to have participated. More information can be found at http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/.
To find out how your school can participate, contact Jill Porazzo at 857-368-8653 or Jill.Porazzo@dot.state.ma.us or visit www.Mass.gov/MassDOT/SafeRoutes

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