AUGUSTA — Hundreds of Maine children will walk or bike to school with family members, school staff and volunteers in celebration of International Walk to School Day, Wednesday, Oct. 3. Community members and school staff join together to host festive walk and bike to school events across the state throughout October, which is International Walk and Bike to School Month, and some schools will continue holding events throughout the fall.
A number of students head to school via “walking school buses” (children walking in groups under adult supervision) and others via “bike trains” (groups bicycling under adult supervision). Participating schools are located from York to Fort Kent and Lincoln to Kingfield, as well as many points in between.
“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 fifteen 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.
The program has three regional encouragement and planning coordinators: Darcy Whittemore (saferoutes@BikeMaine.org) in the central part of the state, Sarah Cushman (email@example.com) in southern Maine and Jim Fisher (firstname.lastname@example.org) in eastern Maine. For more information or details about the Oct. 3 events, email them or call 623-4511.