By Mary O’Keefe
According to the Mayo Clinic, a daily walk can help maintain a healthy weight, prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, strengthen bones and muscles, improve mood and improve balance and coordination.
On Wednesday it did a little more than that when students, many with their parents, participated in Walk to School Day. In addition to the healthy aspects associated with walking, the day also promoted friendship, gave parents some quality time to catch up on what was happening in their child’s life and inspired laughter as hundreds of kids strolled down the street toward their school.
The International Walk and Bike to School Day was organized by the Partnership for a Walkable America in 1997 as a one-day event focused on building awareness for the need for walkable communities. In 2000, the event expanded internationally when schools in the United Kingdom and Canada joined the U.S. event. Both the UK and Canada had events that already promoted walking to school.
“Our goal is to show parents and the community that it is possible for kids to walk to school on a daily basis in a safe and secure environment,” said Scott Anderlie, assistant director Student Support Services with Glendale Unified School District.
Yesterday many teachers and principals joined the walk to school with their students as GUSD promoted the walking event.
“We get about 10,000 participants (district-wide),” Anderlie said.
Principals and teachers arranged specific areas to meet to walk together; for instance, Monte Vista Elementary and Rosemont Middle School students met at Two Strike Park.
“It’s part of the Safe Moves [organization which is part of] the Safe Routes to School [program]” he said.
The walk day typically expands into a walk week, Anderlie said, when everyone discovers how easy it is to walk to school. But after about a week most return to having parents drop kids off.
Rosemont students were very excited about walking to school, as was their principal Cynthia Livingston.
“I am always so excited for this Walktober kick off and every year it gets larger and larger,” Livingston said. “Kids are excited and ask, ‘Why can’t we do this every day?’”
Livingston decided to start out with every Wednesday, and maybe work up to every day.
“We are going to start walking on Wednesdays, meet here at Two Strike Park and then have ‘Walkin’ Wednesdays,’” she added. The district calls this Walking School Buses, as the kids meet and walk to school.
Another benefit to walking to school is traffic is eased at drop-off sites. Anderlie said so far this year he has visited 15 school drop sites and found that it is pretty calm until about 10 minutes before school starts. Then everyone seems to arrive at the same time. He said he gets complaints about drop-off zones and thinks the more kids who walk to school the easier it will be on the zones’ traffic.
The drop-off zones at the local schools did seem a little lighter and traffic was eased on Wednesday in part due to the California Highway Patrol officers who were on hand to make certain the walk was safe.
In the Glendale portion of Crescenta Valley, police and firefighters joined in the Walk to School efforts.
Though many walked, some students were dropped off at school and some parents’ actions continued to provide examples as to why walking can be safer at times than dropping off. A driver heading northbound on Rosemont Avenue pulled over slightly to the east side of the avenue, nowhere near the crosswalk, allowing their student to exit the car and run across the street in front of north and south bound traffic. Drivers had to slam their brakes when the student popped out between cars.