Does Your Child Walk to School?

I hate to drive.  Always have.  I used to make my friends in high school pick me up and shuttle me around.  I didn't bother to get my license until several months after my 16th birthday.  And having children and dealing with car seats has only made me dislike driving even more.  Whenever we move to a new place, I check the walkability index, and try to live within walking distance of several parks as well as the local library, farmer's market, and a few stores if possible.

My children aren't yet school-age, but when they are, I am really hoping to be able to walk to school, because if you can't walk or bike to school, you have two times per day when you automatically have to get in a vehicle (bleh).  Also, I love taking daily walks with my kids, and once kids' schedules are filled up with school and school assignments, it seems like getting a daily walk in for my kids would be extremely challenging if we weren't able to walk to and from school.

Sadly, when I moved into our current place, I didn't consider proximity to schools one bit.  That's because my kids were several years away from entering school and it wasn't really on my radar.  So when my first child starts school in a year or two, I'll be faced with a dilemma.  We do live walking distance to our neighborhood school, but there is also a nearby school (not walking distance, maybe biking distance for an adult) that has a special program I've heard great things about and an elementary school even farther away (neither walking nor biking distance) that is dual language immersion (Spanish and English).  While the location of a school and our ability to walk there is certainly a very important consideration for me, it is definitely not the top consideration for me when it comes to my child's education.

So, phooey, I'm not sure what I'll do when I enroll my first in kindergarten.  But I do know that the next time I move, I will first decide what schools my children are most likely to attend, and then make it a top priority to live within walking distance of the schools.
October 5 is Walk to School Day Everybody Walk and Healthy Child Healthy World are two of the organizations working to promote the event. When I was a kid, most kids I knew walked to school.  My siblings and I walked two-thirds of a mile through residential neighborhoods everyday to get to elementary school, hot or cold, rain or snow.  Later I walked to and from school bus stops or city bus stops, often by myself, to arrive at schools farther away.  My husband grew up walking to elementary school with friends on busy urban streets.

Even if your own children live too far away to walk to their school, you can help make walking a safe option for as many children who attend your neighborhood school and/or your child's school as possible.  Check out the Walk to School website to find out how you can participate.  If you don't feel like your child's route to school is safe enough for walking, the website has great resources for making your community more walkable through Walk to School initiatives.  By promoting walking and biking to school you also encourage physical activity and health in kids, improved air quality, and a more walkable community for everyone!

Do your children walk to school?   I hope mine will.  Whether your kids do or don't, October 5th is a great day to promote better walking options for kids and communities throughout the U.S.

Photo credit: edenpictures

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  1. gloating: i walk my kids to school! .6 miles. Today I was running late to pick them up, so put on my running shoes and ran as fast as I could. I made it in 8 minutes! that's fast for me. My favorite was when a stranger asked along my way, "How far are you running? me:"Just up to the school to pick up my kids!" he thought it was so funny.

  2. You should gloat! What a great way to get in a little run or speed walk. A definite advantage of living in NYC and attending the neighborhood school. As kids, we were lucky that it was downhill from our house to the elementary school or bus stop, b/c we were running half the time to get there on time.

  3. I didn't think about it when we moved either Betsy. We live too far to walk to any of the schools in our town. My kids are on a yellow school bus twice/day sitting and sedentary. I wish I had thought about it way back when. Doesn't look like we're moving any time soon-so I'm stuck! Since there's not a whole lot we can do we try to emphasize walking and exercise in other areas of our life.

  4. My son's preschool would be a really, really, really long walk from our house, but I am tempted to do it on October 5 if we can make it work logistically! I love that you walk so many places. Our city is not very walkable.

  5. This is such a great initiative! When I was a kid, all my schools (elementary, middle and high) were all within walking distance. The high school was a "healthy" walk but still doable. It did me good! Today I see parents waiting in their cars at the bus stop to drive their children all of two blocks from the bus to their home. I just don't get it!

    Your post fits in nicely with an Eco-challenge on my blog right now. We're trading at least one car trip for a walking/biking trip. If you have a moment, drop by and join the fun! Here's the direct link:

    Thanks for this post!

  6. My bubba is only 9mths old, but we just bought a house & made sure it is within walking distance to a good school, shops, parks & even the beach. And, um, I'm 36yo & don't have a drivers licence cos I don't want to drive (not when I have perfectly good legs!!).

  7. Thanks, Small Footprints, I will check it out.

    Wow, Rie, you are taking it to the next level. I can assure you that all of my friends in HS thought I was pure nutso that I didn't get my license the DAY I turned 16.

  8. Hi Betsy ... just wanted to drop back in to let you know that this post will be mentioned on my blog tomorrow (Wednesday, 10/5/11). Thanks!

  9. It's great that you are prioritizing walking to school when you choose your next home! As the mother of a soon-to-be second grader, I completely agree about the need to build a walk into the day. It's also a pleasant conversation time for him with each parent--I walk him there, and his dad walks him home. Here is my article from last Walk to School Day about my experiences as a parent and as a child walking to school.


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