Saturday, October 1, 2011

FCPS embraces International Walk and Bike to School system wide in 2011

The following article was recently sent out by the Fairfax County Council of PTAs to help promote International Walk and Bike to School Day on October 5:
Over the past year, interested parents, citizens and representatives of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), Washington Area Bicycling Association (WABA) and Trails for Youth have been meeting with leaders from Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the FCPS School Board, the FCCPTA and the Fairfax County Education Coalition (FEC) to encourage FCPS to address the decline in children walking and biking to school.

As a result of these meetings FCPS is embracing a system wide promotion of International Walk to School Day on October 5, 2011. Students in Fairfax County public schools will participate in International Walk to School Day in an effort to promote physical activity and reduce traffic congestion and pollution near schools.

Superintendent Jack D. Dale and Fairfax County Executive Tony Griffin are joining forces to encourage county residents to participate in International Walk to School Day. “Walking is a simple way to incorporate physical activity into your day,” said Dale. “We encourage all FCPS students and families to participate in this day and to use walking or biking as a means of getting to school whenever possible.”

All students at all school levels are encouraged to walk or bike to school or walk to their bus stop on October 5. Parents are encouraged to accompany their children to school and to work with their school and PTA or PTO to assemble walking groups for the event. Schools that want to participate can register online at the Walk to School website.

We need your assistance in getting the word out so that local schools can join with the 6 that have already signed up and started their planning for International Walk to School Day. In addition, the FCCPTA passed a resolution earlier this year in support of Safe Routes to School.

In 1969, approximately 50% of children walked or bicycled to school and 87% of children living within one mile of school did. Today, fewer than 15% of school children walk or bicycle to school. As a result, kids today are less active, less independent, and less healthy. So as to better understand how to find solutions to this 35% decrease, FCPS has created a Safe Routes to School working group made up of FCPS and County employees, members of the community from the groups mentioned and the Fairfax County Police Department.

Wolftrap Elementary School and Vienna Elementary School are two of several Fairfax County public schools to establish a Safe Routes to School program and participate in bike and walk to school initiatives. Wolftrap began its program with general bike and walking education for all students, moved its Kiss and Ride drop off and pick up spots in order to separate automobile traffic from pedestrian traffic and established a monthly run Wolfie's bike train where students bike to school together when weather permits. Vienna is embarking on a plan to create Walking Wednesdays and has applied for a grant to install missing sidewalks along many of its walking routes.

Both combined efforts with Cunningham Park Elementary School in May 2011 to have a Bike and Walk to School Challenge between the three schools. Over the course of the week 400 children biked and 2100 walked to school and each school saw KissNRide drop off near 50%. Several public officials joined in during the week and some shared their perspective on walking to school. In addition, you can read about how the installation of a bridge near Kilmer Middle School ultimately led to more bikers and their PTA installing a rack.

For more information, read up on Safe Routes on the FABB site or see the FCPS Walk to School site and Fairfax SRTS Facebook page or contact
See the Walk and Bike to School Day flier that can be printed out and posted or handed out at your school.

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