October, 2010 is International Walk to School Month and Wednesday of this week is International Walk to School Day. We owe our thanks to the Hertfordshire County Council in England for this creation, piloted in 1994. The UK Pedestrian Association held a similar event a year later and in 1996 the first cross-country walk-to-school week was held. And it's grown enormously since then. Last year over 40 countries participated and this year will likely top that number. Canada joined in 1998. The organization provides lots of information on its web site http://www.iwalktoschool.org/.
Green Communities Canada leads the initiative in Ontario. More information on their work can be found at http://www.saferoutestoschool.ca/ including resources, tools, information and links for schools. It points out an amazing statistic "If just nine families participate regularly in a Walking School Bus over the course of a school year, they can collectively prevent almost 1,000 kg of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere". That sounds like a lot - it is a lot. Now imagine if 18, 27 or 36 families did the same thing....
What more can we do?
- Talk with neighbours about walking school buses. Check out this post on the Broadview School web site by some parents who did exactly that http://tiny.cc/zf24t. Hiring a teenager to walk a group of children to or from school is another option.
- Encourage your city councillors to be involved in traffic issues and consider school children in traffic planning assessments. Schools may examine traffic patterns close to their building but will not typically have sufficient resources or jurisdcition to go further afield.
- Encourage the school board to consider walkability when determining school catchment areas. We for example attend Broadview Ave. P.S. which is 0.8 km away however our designated school is in fact Hilson, 2 km away and past 2 busy streets. We can walk to Broadview but could likely never be walking to Hilson. We would love to see the boundary changed so that our youngest can be assured a spot at Broadview without a cross-boundary transfer.