#10YearsofSRTS: Walk to School Day: A Bellwether for the Demand for Active Communities

wtsdSince the first U.S. event in 1997, Walk to School Day has become the cornerstone annual event for champions of Safe Routes to School, walking and bicycling. Each year, Walk to School Day celebrations break records for participation, with more than 4,780 events being held in 2014. And in many communities, Walk to School Day events are just one part of a school’s efforts to embrace active lifestyles. More than half of all Walk to School Day events are part of ongoing efforts to promote walking and bicycling throughout the year.

Many schools have found that hosting a Walk to School Day event helps showcase demand for walking and bicycling to officials and the wider community, leading to tangible improvements such as better crosswalks, new sidewalks and bicycle paths. In fact, 70 percent of events in 2014 led to policy and engineering changes. For schools with programs that are up and running, Walk to School Day is celebrated as a way to bring parents, students, and school staff together, building a sense of community and fostering school spirit. 

Deb Hubsmith was a true believer in the power of Walk to School Day for inspiring kids and communities to embrace walking and bicycling year-round. In an interview at the 2013 Walking Summit, Deb encouraged community members to “get out there on Walk to School Day” and leverage momentum to kick off citywide efforts to improve conditions for walking and bicycling.

Here are three ideas for building momentum in your community this fall leading up to Walk to School Day on October 7:

  • Register your event at walkbiketoschool.org to ensure your activities are counted as part of the nationwide movement for walking and bicycling.
  • Use National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month in September to shine the spotlight on Safe Routes to School, walking and bicycling as key strategies to increase physical activity and improve kids’ health.
  • Make Fire Up Your Feet your first stop for information and support for joining the movement for healthy, active schools. Any school can use our system to track activity during the month of October, and in participating Activity Challenge regions, download our Fire Up Your Walk to School Day flyer for tips on connecting Walk to School Day with a winning Fire Up Your Feet strategy.

As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Safe Routes to School, Deb would encourage us to use our best and most creative energy to make this Walk to School Day the biggest and most successful one yet.

Read previous installments of our #10YearsofSRTS blog series.