This Wednesday, October 4, East Lansing’s Walk to School Day will be visible in neighborhoods near you. All five East Lansing elementary schools will participate, so you’ll see many students and families in those early morning minutes before the school bell rings.
The Walk is a project of Safe Routes to School (SRTS). SRTS team member Ginger Ogilvie spoke to this reporter, explaining the impetus behind the annual event. “We hope to get people walking, to encourage them to commit to walking one morning a week and see that they are able to make a small difference.” Oglivie explains that one benefit would be a reduction in the number of cars attempting to drop off kids in congested school parking lots.
The SRTS team focuses on neighborhood-based walking routes. The purpose of this approach is to use existing routes while promoting community, including the “Walking School Bus” concept and remote drop-off.
“Walking School Bus” means a meeting place is established by parents in a neighborhood. Families gather there each morning, and one to two parents walk the group to school. The parents develop a rotating schedule or other suitable plan.
A “remote drop-off” means that if your neighborhood does not have a safe route nearby, you might drive to a place nearer to school with an existing safe route, park and walk to school from there. Even those five minutes can offer the additional benefits of “active transportation,” which is walking or riding a bike instead of using fuel-powered vehicles to get where you are going, even if it is walking to the bus stop, or skateboarding to a friend’s house.
Ogilvie added that in addition to pure logistics in the school lots, “there are environmental benefits to reduced numbers of cars driving students to and from school, and kids are getting exercise. Whether walking with one parent or a group, it is also a few minutes to socialize or unwind from the day.”