Walk N Roll campaign gets kids movingNov 10, 2021 01:18PM ● By Hannah Sandorf Davis
The Walk N Roll campaign encourages starting activity goals with children while they are young to help them maintain a healthy attitude toward walking into adulthood. Photo courtesy Unsplash.
In its September/October Newsletter, the Adelaide Elementary School PTA included a notice. “Did you know that your child can win prizes just for walking or riding a bike (or scooter) to school?” This question refers to the Walk N Roll campaign from Safe Routes Utah, a program that began just a few years ago focused on increasing child activity through a state-wide sweepstakes model. Students who participate in the program from September to May of the 2021-2022 school year will be eligible to win prizes like a new scooter, bike and helmet, and more. To encourage participation, Adelaide Elementary held a Walk to School Day on Oct. 12 as part of Red Ribbon Week.
Walk N Roll seeks to increase the number of students who live within a mile and a half to two miles of their K-8 school who walk or bike instead of getting dropped off. This campaign has several potential benefits; a decrease in congestion for parents whose children travel greater distance to school, increased health and cognitive awareness for children who walk and bike, and social development for students who walk together in groups or with family members.
Of course, many parents worry about the risk of children walking to and from school. Inclement weather, dangerous strangers, and traffic accidents are all real concerns. To try to mitigate some of those concerns, Walk N Roll provides guides for parents and teachers to help educate students about potential risks of walking to school. One of their recommendations is that children below the age of 10 do not walk to and from school unaccompanied. This is one key in recommending walking groups, where instead of carpooling parents take turns walking with children in their neighborhood to school.
Walk N Roll is not only targeting education for students, however. Another key part is offering grants to schools and communities to make the walk to school safer. This includes non-infrastructure costs like education as well as infrastructure costs like repairing sidewalks and creating bicycle parking at participating schools. This grant funding can also help increase the amount of signage around school walking paths to help keep pedestrians and drivers in their respective safe zones.
Though there are many exceptions to why it can be difficult for a child to walk to school, Safe Routes also wants to make it clear that there are many benefits. On their website, they write “Walking or biking instead of riding in a vehicle promotes habits of physical wellness they can carry with them for a lifetime.” Children who walk to school, they say, perform better cognitively when they arrive because they are more awake and aware in the classroom. It can also help children develop a daily walking habit that will carry them into adulthood.
Safe Routes also provides maps around schools to help parents plan with confidence. These maps are generally available on the school’s website, or at safe routes.utah.gov. In a culture where adults are constantly trying to close their Apple Watch activity rings, the Walk N Roll campaign is hoping to start activity goals with children while they are young and help them maintain a healthy attitude toward walking into adulthood.