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Turning Around the Transportation Culture at a School

10:37 AM EDT on October 5, 2012

Are you ready for some depressing statistics? Only 13 percent of children walk to school today compared with 66 percent in 1970, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Parents driving their kids to school make up 20 to 30 percent of morning traffic in urban areas, according to America Walks. We won't even get into the subject of childhood obesity.

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But the happy news is that a healthier, less stressful alternative is possible, as one school community in the greater Washington area is demonstrating. Christine Green at Greater Greater Washington reports on how Vienna Elementary School in Virginia has moved the dial toward active students and less harried parents with its Safe Routes to School initiatives:

Safe Routes to School programs encourage students to increase their physical activity through walking and bicycling to school. In October of 2011, Vienna Elementary School started Walking Wednesdays. 3 parent coordinators send home flyers with the students encouraging them to walk or bike to school every Wednesday. The parent coordinators give students who walk or bike a foot token or special reflector for key chains that attach to their backpacks. Parents who walk or bike with their students drink free coffee.

With to this once-a-week commitment, Vienna Elementary School has gotten results. Scott McCall, volunteer Safe Routes to School Coordinator, says the principal is reporting students are more focused in class and more students are walking and bicycling every day of the week, not just Wednesday.

Vienna Elementary has achieved half of their student population walking or bicycling in one day and regularly has 20 bikes in their racks compared to 3-4 last year.

This example contrasts with another local school. In a letter in the Washington Post, a parent at Bailey's Elementary reported she could more easily leave Nationals ballpark on opening day than pick her child up from school.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Grid Chicago reports that the Windy City's regional transportation agencies aren't doing too well at coordinating. NRDC's Switchboard blog explains that aging in place won't work if seniors can't live in quality, connected places. And BTA blog gives an example of how signal timing coordination can make cycling safer and more attractive.

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