Pulled From BikesBelong.org

September means back to school for many American families. Sadly, these days it is rare for children to pedal or walk to that first day of class (or any, for that matter). Only 12 percent of U.S. children walked (11%) or biked (1%) to school in 2009, compared to 48 percent in 1969. Due to a variety of factors, kids are getting to school through passive travel (private car, bus, etc.), not active travel like biking and walking.

This decline in active travel to school has directly correlated with a rise in childhood obesity. During the past 40 years, U.S. childhood obesity rates have tripled, and more than 33% of children and adolescents are overweight, obese, or at risk of becoming so. Kids are getting fatter for a number of reasons, but this huge decline in daily active travel has to be at the

It’s appropriate then that the White House recently proclaimed September National Childhood Obesity Prevention Awareness Month.  How children get to school (and what they eat when they’re there) can help determine the obesity epidemic’s future. Kids have enjoyed biking for generations, but in today’s sedentary culture it is more important than ever for children to ride to school. Bicycling provides daily physical activity when gym classes are being cut from schools.

Rest assured that there are parents, teachers, school officials, politicians, and other professionals working hard to help more kids bike or walk to school. Six hundred leaders of the “Safe Routes to School” (SRTS) movement held a major conference in Minneapolis just in time for September’s back to school excitement. Former Congressman James Oberstar
and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybeck spoke about the importance of SRTS to current and future generations. Oberstar, the leader of the SRTS movement in Congress, called the program “An enormous force that can create a change throughout society.” You can read more about the conference on the Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s blog (the National Partnership is an affiliate of the Bikes Belong Foundation).

The Safe Routes to School movement is important for everyone in this country, child or adult. Healthier future generations mean lower healthcare costs and a more productive workforce for us all. More biking and walking to school also helps reduce traffic and pollution:  Returning to 1969 levels of walking and bicycling to school would save 3.2 billion vehicle miles, 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide and 89,000 tons of other pollutants—equal to keeping more than 250,000 cars off the road for a year. Finally, safe places for kids to ride to and from school are safe places for everyone to ride all day, every day. SRTS is something all bicyclists (and all Americans) can get behind.