BROCKTON -- October 4, 2011 -- Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) officials will join students, teachers, and parents in a “walking school bus” from Ash Street in Brockton to the Kennedy School Wednesday, October 5 at 8:30 a.m. to celebrate International Walk to School Day 2011, a worldwide event with participation by over 6 million people in over 40 countries. Thousands of elementary and middle school-aged children will celebrate at hundreds of walking events Wednesday throughout the Commonwealth.
"Walking to school is a great way to incorporate some exercise into your daily routine, and gives students some time with their friends before the start of the school day," said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard Davey. "I encourage all students who are able to try walking to school today."
In Massachusetts, Walk to School Day is promoted through MassDOT’s Safe Routes to School Program, which works with students, parents, school staff, and local police in 124 communities and over 400 schools to promote walking and bicycling to school in order to improve students' health, reduce traffic congestion, and improve air quality.
MassDOT’s Safe Routes to School program provides students, parents, and the school community with education and training on transportation, safety, and health benefits from walking and bicycling to school. In addition, the program provides technical expertise to identify and fund infrastructure school access and safety improvements, such as sidewalks, traffic calming measures, and on or off-street bicycle facilities. These improvements can make bicycle and pedestrian access to schools easier and safer, and increase walking and bicycling around schools.
In 1969, 42 percent of American students bicycled or walked to school. Today, less than 16 percent of children walk or bicycle to classes. In the same period of time, the percentage of children who are overweight has tripled. In some communities, school-related traffic can contribute 10-14 percent of morning rush hour traffic volumes, as well as significant air pollution.
The United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom joined together in 2000 to create International Walk to School Day. Over 2.5 million walkers were estimated to have participated. This year, more than 6,500 schools in the United States are estimated to take part in International Walk to School Day.
The Safe Routes to School program is a key component of the Healthy Transportation Compact, an initiative of the Patrick-Murray Administration's transportation reform that promotes collaboration between the departments of transportation and public health to adopt best practices, increase efficiency, and achieve positive health outcomes through the coordination of land use, transportation, and public health policy. Safe Routes to School enables direct collaboration between the Commonwealth and schools and communities to promote walking and bicycling transportation as fun, safe, and sustainable travel options.
Safe Routes to School also supports GreenDOT, MassDOT’s comprehensive environmental responsibility and sustainability policy. GreenDOT calls for MassDOT to incorporate sustainability into all of its activities, from strategic planning to project design and construction to system operation.
The GreenDOT policy initiative includes greenhouse gas reduction targets mandated under the Global Warming Solutions Act, signed by Governor Patrick in 2008. This law requires an economy-wide 2020 emissions reduction mandate of 25 percent, the first step toward a required 80 percent reduction by 2050. The transportation sector generates more than one-third of the total greenhouse gas emissions produced in Massachusetts.
Safe Routes to School is federally-funded and administered by the MassRIDES travel options program on behalf of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. To find out how your school can participate, contact Rebecca Cyr at 617-892-6084 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Mass.gov/MassDOT/SafeRoutes.
(Editor's Note: Contact Rebecca Cyr at 617-892-6084, email@example.com) to identify a Massachusetts Walk to School event in your area).
For transportation news and updates visit MassDOT at our website: www.mass.gov/massdot, blog: www.mass.gov/blog/transportation, or follow MassDOT on twitter at www.twitter.com/massdot.