Healthy ways to get to school

Traffic on roadways increases during the morning and afternoon hours during the school year. During the morning and mid-afternoon, millions of students make their way to and from school. Safe Routes to School National Partnership estimates that as much as 20 to 30 percent of all morning traffic is generated by parents driving their children to school.

Today, many school-aged children are driven to school by their parents. That not only increases traffic and the opportunities for vehicular accidents, but also contributes to the poor air quality in and around local neighborhoods. The cities of London and Camden in the United Kingdom have already placed bans on driving on some roads around schools to help curb air pollution. The World Health Organization says air pollution is linked to the deaths of three million people around the world each year.

Driving to school may also contribute to the obesity epidemic plaguing the nation’s youth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the percentage of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. Roughly one in five school-aged children is obese. Canada’s Childhood Obesity Foundation notes that childhood overweight and obesity has been steadily climbing. Rates have almost doubled for children between the ages of two and 17. If that trend continues, by 2040, as much as 70 percent of Canadian adults are expected to be overweight or obese.

Families can find healthy ways to transport children to school, and these alternatives can benefit the environment as well.

Walk to school
Walking one mile to and from school each day can fulfill around two-thirds of the 60 minutes of the recommended physical activity for children each day. Considering that recess times are being cut and kids are spending more time indoors or on devices instead of playing outside with friends, walking to school provides much-needed exercise.

Young children should be accompanied by an adult chaperone when walking to school. Older children are urged to walk in pairs or groups to increase safety in numbers. Students should heed traffic signals and stick to routes with access to crosswalks and crossing guards.

Bike to school
Bicycling is another great physical activity and an efficient way to get to school. The Wisconsin Department of Health states that, when kids cycle at a moderate effort for one mile, they can burn between 20 and 30 calories depending on the weight of the child.
When biking to school, students should follow the rules of the road and wear the appropriate safety gear, such as helmets.

Sharing rides to school is another way to cut down on congestion and air pollution. Families can work together to drive students to and from school, sports games and clubs.

Ride the bus
In districts that offer school bus service, students can take advantage of this safe mode of transport. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that traveling by school bus is seven times safer than traveling by car or truck. School buses also reduce the number of cars on the road during peak travel times.