MassDOT officials today joined students, teachers, and parents in a “walking school bus” from Ash Street in Brockton to the Kennedy School to celebrate International Walk to School Day 2011, a worldwide event with participation by over 6 million people in over 40 countries. Thousands of elementary and middle school-aged children joined hundreds of walking events today across the Commonwealth.
"Walking to school is a great way to incorporate some exercise into your daily routine, and gives students some time with their friends before the start of the school day," said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard Davey.
In Massachusetts, Walk to School Day is promoted through MassDOT’s Safe Routes to School Program, which works with students, parents, school staff, and local police in 124 communities and over 400 schools to promote walking and bicycling to school in order to improve students' health, reduce traffic congestion, and improve air quality.
MassDOT’s Safe Routes to School program provides students, parents, and the school community with education and training on transportation, safety, and health benefits from walking and bicycling to school. In addition, the program provides technical expertise to identify and fund infrastructure school access and safety improvements, such as sidewalks, traffic calming measures, and on or off-street bicycle facilities. These improvements can make bicycle and pedestrian access to schools easier and safer, and increase walking and bicycling around schools.
In 1969, 42 percent of American students bicycled or walked to school. Today, less than 16 percent of children walk or bicycle to classes. In the same period of time, the percentage of children who are overweight has tripled. In some communities, school-related traffic can contribute 10-14 percent of morning rush hour traffic volumes, as well as significant air pollution.
Safe Routes to School is part of the Healthy Transportation Compact, a transportation reform initiative promoting positive health outcomes through coordination of land use, transportation, and public health policy.
Safe Routes to School also supports GreenDOT, MassDOT’s comprehensive environmental responsibility and sustainability policy. GreenDOT calls for MassDOT to incorporate sustainability in all activities, from strategic planning to project design and construction to system operation.