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Last time, we saw that being able to bicycle has historically given women a special sense of freedom. Well, kids like freedom, too. Not so long ago, lots of them biked or walked to school and very few were driven. Today those numbers have flipped. Now, in part because they’re getting less regular exercise, kids are prone to put on weight and develop health problems previously limited to adults.
But a scrappy federal program called Safe Routes to School is bucking the trend. SRTS offers elementary schools no-strings-attached grants for things like adding sidewalks or educating communities about the lost art of active transportation. Last fall, SRTS gave out “mini-grants” for taking small steps to make big changes in kids’ health and happiness.
In a traffic-clogged suburb of Washington, D.C., Principal Anita Blain wanted her students to know the rules of the road before Bike to School Day (May 9), which her school system is endorsing for the first time this year. So she jumped at a parent’s idea to use a mini-grant to pay for a kid “bike rodeo,” which ponied up lots of benefits:
All year round, the Bike to School Day website has an online tool for mapping a safe biking or walking route. If your child is age ten or younger, you or another grownup will also get the benefits of riding or walking because kids that age don’t have the judgment to cross a street alone. SRTS has a great guide for teaching kids of different ages how to safely walk and bike plus information about how to apply for SRTS grants in your state.
Now if only Congress would keep the program alive in the next federal transportation bill…