Lack of physical activity is believed to be a leading cause in rising rates of obesity, diabetes and other health problems among children.
Driving students to school by private vehicle contributes to traffic congestion and air pollution.
The local Safe Routes to School program believes it has an answer.
Today, Friday Harbor Elementary School students and parents participated in the Walking School Bus and walked to school. Following a bus route and schedule, the pedestrian caravan stopped for grade-schoolers at Islanders Bank, Spring Street and Blaire Avenue, and Spruce and Nash streets, arriving at the elementary school at 9:25. That was the green route.
On the yellow route, a pedestrian caravan stopped at Sunken Park, C and Nichols streets, Hunt and Franck streets, Hunt and Nelson streets, and Hunt and Grover streets, arriving at the elementary school by 9:25.
The gaggle of grade-schoolers will take the Walking School Bus home by the same routes this afternoon.
Safe Routes to School is a group of local parents, teachers and volunteers committed to implementing the Safe Routes to School program in Friday Harbor. The Walking School Bus is one part of what the group does. It partners with community members to achieve its stated goals:
— To enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school.
— To make bicycling and walking to school a safer and more appealing transportation alternative, thereby encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age.
— To facilitate the planning, development and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.
The organization is advocating improvements to infrastructure surrounding schools; reducing motor vehicle speeds and conflicts with pedestrians and bicyclists; and creating safer and fully accessible crossings, walkways, trails and bikeways.
The organization will also create and participate in events such as Walk to School Day and the Walking School Bus.
Thursday, Town Councilwoman Carrie Lacher, an avid walker, read a proclamation on behalf of Mayor David Jones declaring Oct. 8 “Walk to School Day.” The proclamation said, in part, that an important role for parents and caregivers is to “teach children about pedestrian safety and become aware of the difficulties and dangers that children face on their trip to school each day and the health and environmental risks related to physical inactivity and air pollution.”
The proclamation asks residents to join in recognizing the safety and health of our young children today and everyday.”