AUGUSTA — Hundreds of Maine children are walking or biking to school today, with family members, school staff and volunteers, in celebration of International Walk and Bike to School Day.
York is one of the many commuitis across the state that is participating in the annual event. Students from Coastal Ridge Elementary and Village Elementary — Coastal Ridge have walked or biked to school every Friday in September and are doing so again today.
A number of students head to school via “walking school buses” (children walking in groups under adult supervision) and others via “bike trains,” which are groups bicycling under adult supervision.
“Each year, more and more schools in Maine are involved in encouraging kids to begin the habit of walking and biking safely to school, helping to build these important life skills for an entire generation,” said Nancy Grant, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. The U.S. public health initiative Healthy People 2020 recognizes walking and bicycling to school as an opportunity to increase physical activity among children and adolescents five to 15 years of age.
Maine’s federally funded Safe Routes to School Program — a program of the Maine Department of Transportation, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and communities throughout the state — supports local efforts to improve safety and increase walking and bicycling to school. In addition, many schools participate in presentations from the Maine Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Education Program — available at no-cost to all interested schools. These programs have been recognized as national models for keeping children safe from traffic dangers while walking and bicycling to school.
Since Maine’s program began in 2001, more than 150 schools have become involved. Using federal funds, more than 50 communities have been approved for infrastructure improvements to make walking and biking safer near schools.
“These federally funded safety improvements have been extremely helpful in creating safer pedestrian and bicycle travel around schools in communities throughout the state,” said Dan Stewart, MaineDOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager.
Two of the major goals of the Safe Routes to School Program are improved safety and increased physical activity to fight childhood obesity. In addition, Walk and Bike to School programs help to ease traffic congestion, boost academic performance, improve classroom behavior, improve air quality and save school districts money on busing costs.