Rails-to-Trails Could Give Schools and Communities Safe Routes to School

| 12/17/2012 3:20:08 PM

This article is posted with permission from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. 

Everyone agrees that getting more children walking or riding to school each day would be a great thing. The regular exercise would do them the world of good, not to speak of keeping all those parent-taxis off the road in a.m. and p.m. peak hours. Groups like Safe Routes to School have already started national movements around the issue. Rails-to-Trails 

In 1969, about 41 percent of kids walked or biked to school. Now, that number is down to about 13 percent. And in that same time period, the percentage of children who are overweight has more than tripled. This generation of young people is the first in our history expected to have a shorter average life expectancy than their parents, and inactivity is the main reason why.  

However the problem isn't just lazy kids. Many communities have developed in such an auto-centric way that their roads and streets don't have sidewalks, and walking or riding is either unsafe or, in some instances, banned. 

Students at Kenowa Hills High School in Michigan were suspended earlier this year for riding their bikes to the last day of classes, a ride which, incidentally, they had to take on-road as there are no sidewalks, bike paths or bike lanes connecting to the school. 

At Norwood-Norfolk Central School in Norfolk, N.Y., they are facing a similar challenge — students and staff are desperate to add more regular physical activity to their days, but the school is in an area where the built environment discourages active transportation. The school says it was told by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYDOT) that sidewalks would not be permitted alongside the only road that connects to the school. 

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