CHAPEL HILL, N.C., Oct. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Wednesday, Oct. 3, thousands of students, parents and communities representing more than 3,300 schools across the United Sates will walk and bicycle to school to celebrate International Walk to School Day. This one-day event is part of an international effort to encourage more families to get out of their cars and on to their feet to enjoy the many benefits of safely walking and bicycling to school.
"Walk to School Day continues to inspire community-grown events that celebrate health, safety and a sense of community," said Lauren Marchetti, director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School, which serves as the coordinating agency for the event. "Often, this one-day event becomes the catalyst to larger commitments and permanent improvements that make walking and bicycling to school safer transportation options year round."
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari and other national, state and local guests will join a group of Piney Branch Elementary students in Takoma Park, Md., on Wednesday morning as a part of Montgomery County's Walk to School Day celebration. He will also present a special recognition award for the school's Safe Routes to School program.
"Every child should have the opportunity to walk to school safely," said Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari. "Walk to School Day encourages children to experience walk-friendly environments and affirms the importance of walking and biking for a new generation of Americans."
Walk to School Day was founded in 1997 as a way to bring community leaders and children together to build awareness of the need for communities to be more walkable. By 2002, children, parents, teachers and community leaders in all 50 states and the District of Columbia joined nearly 3 million walkers around the world to celebrate the second annual International Walk to School Day. In 2011, students and parents from more than 4,000 U.S. schools joined millions of Walk to School Day and Month participants worldwide. The one-day event has now grown to a month-long celebration, and the reasons for walking have grown just as quickly as the event itself.
"Each year the event continues to reinforce the importance of safer environments for walking and bicycling, more physical activity, fewer car trips, and a cleaner environment for students, parents and all community members," Marchetti said. "It also provides a unique opportunity for families to get outside and connect with their neighbors."
Walk to School events will be held nationwide on Wednesday and throughout the month of October. To view the names and locations of registered U.S. schools participating in Walk to School Day 2012, visit www.walktoschool.org/who/index.cfm.
The National Center for Safe Routes to School maintains the Walk and Bike to School website, www.walkbiketoschool.org, with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.
The National Center also serves as the clearinghouse for the Federal Safe Routes to School Program, established in 2005, which strives to create safe settings to enable more parents and children to walk and bicycle to school. More than 13,350 schools participate in programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Accomplishments include increases in walking and bicycling to school, speed reductions within the school zone, and reductions in school transportation costs. Programs reach urban, rural and suburban areas throughout the nation.
For more information about Walk to School Day, visit www.walkbiketoschool.org.
For a complete list of other countries participating in Walk to School Day 2012, visit: www.iwalktoschool.org/whoswalking.
For past photos of International Walk to School Day activities, visit: www.iwalktoschool.org/photos.
About The National Center for Safe Routes to School
Established in May 2006, the National Center for Safe Routes to School assists states and communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bicycle to school. The National Center serves as the clearinghouse for the federal Safe Routes to School program. The organization also provides technical support and resources and coordinates online registration efforts and provides technical support and resources for U.S. Walk to School Day and facilitates worldwide promotion and participation.
The National Center is part of the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. For more information, visit www.saferoutesinfo.com.
SOURCE National Center for Safe Routes to School