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National Walk and Bike to School Day - October 6


What began as an idea has evolved into a movement. The first National Walk to School Day – called Walk Our Children to School Day – was held in 1997. Since then, it’s come a long way.  In May 2012, the first-ever National Bike to School Day was celebrated across the USA. 

Why walk, bike, or roll?

In 2006, the National Center developed a centralized data collection and reporting system to understand and evaluate the uptake of the Federal SRTS Program and look for changes in walking and bicycling participation. From 2007 – 2016, the National Center provided data processing services to all schools that collected school travel data using its instruments. This provided the opportunity to create a nationally standardized means of benchmarking and evaluating SRTS practice and resulted in trend reports and analysis of program reach. The travel patterns reported in 2016 by the National Center’s study of 720,000 parent surveys from 6,500 schools show a promising upward trend: walking to and from school increased from less than 14 percent to more than 17 percent of all school trips between 2007-08 and 2014. Additionally, in 2015, the National Center’s analysis found that low-income communities were well represented in SRTS funding. Most recently, the National Center examined the role of child safety and Vision Zero programs in six US cities.

There’s a feeling of joy and independence—a sense of adventure—that doesn’t fade. When walking, biking, or rolling to school together, parents and children get to appreciate things they don’t notice while driving—listening to the sounds of the neighborhood, seeing friends and neighbors, and feeling connected with their community. Parents, children, and friends can enjoy one another’s company without the usual distractions.

Walk & Bike to School Day events celebrate these experiences and help make them possible for others. They bring schools and communities together for a common purpose. 

Healthier Habits

Active trips to school enable children to incorporate the regular physical activity they need each day while also forming healthy habits that can last a lifetime. Regular physical activity helps children build strong bones, muscles, and joints, and it decreases the risk of obesity. In contrast, insufficient physical activity can contribute to chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and adolescents get one hour or more of physical activity each day. Research suggests that physically active kids are more likely to become healthy, physically active adults, underscoring the importance of developing the habit of regular physical activity early.

Cleaner Environment

When families decide to lace up their sneakers or strap on their bike helmets to get to school instead of riding in a car, they help reduce the amount of air pollutants emitted by automobiles.

Vehicles emit a variety of air pollutants, resulting in increases in ground-level ozone, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter such as particles of dust, soot, smoke, dirt, and liquid droplets. To learn more about the health risks of pollution, visit

Promoting Safety

In 2009, 203,000 children ages 15 and younger were injured in motor vehicles crashes; 15,000 of those injured were pedestrians (NHTSA, 2011). Priority must be placed on making it possible for everyone to walk safely, especially in neighborhoods and school zones.

To reduce the risk of injury:

  • Children and adults need to learn safe walking and bicycling skills.
  • Drivers need to watch for others using the road.
  • Safety problems along routes to school need to be fixed.

Some of the best ways to increase the safety of a child’s walking or biking trip to school are to:

  • Provide safe, well-maintained walkways separate from vehicles.
  • Teach children to cross streets at marked crossings and to always look left-right-left.
  • Slow traffic in neighborhoods and near schools through traffic calming strategies and enforcement efforts.
  • Work with parents of children with disabilities and special education professionals to identify accessibility barriers.
  • Ensure that walkways are continuous and meet national accessibility standards.
  • Install curb ramps at every intersection and at mid-block crossings.
  • Provide accessible pedestrian signals at intersections.

A note about personal security:

Parents and other adults sometimes worry about children encountering bullies or strangers on the way to or from school. Parents may fear kidnapping or assault. While the actual occurrences are extremely rare, it’s important to deal with both perceptions and documented problems and to create a plan that will minimize risk. Asking parents to walk with children to school is one way to address this concern. Some communities start walking school buses  or bicycle trains as a way to have an adult presence on the street.

Community Benefits

The whole community benefits from efforts to enable and encourage more children to walk or bicycle to school safely. Benefits include:

  • Less traffic congestion
  • Stronger sense of community
  • Safer streets
  • Lower costs
  • Improved accessibility

Safe Routes to School

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs are sustained efforts by parents; school staff and administrators; representatives from law enforcement, public health and advocacy; community leaders and local, state, and federal governments to improve the health and well-being of children by enabling and encouraging them to walk and bicycle to school.

SRTS programs examine conditions around schools and conduct projects and activities that work to improve safety and accessibility and reduce traffic and air pollution in the vicinity of schools. As a result, these programs help make bicycling and walking to school safer and more appealing transportation choices thus encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age.

From 2006 to 2016, the National Center developed resources, provided technical assistance, and conducted marketing and program evaluation for the Federal Safe Routes to School program.

To learn more about Safe Routes to School and strategies for turning your Walk and Bike to School Day events into long-term efforts to promote safe walking and bicycling every day, visit


Decorate your bike

Don’t just pull your bike out of the garage — ride in style! Add star- or heart-shaped reflectors to your tire spokes, attach blinking lights, or even thread some LED lights through your spokes.

Find a group

Even if you live far from school, you can still play along. Some schools have designated starting points and others host walking events right at school. See who else is participating near you and join in!

Bring a friend

Once you’ve decked out your bike and found your group, invite your neighbors and friends! 'Walk and Bike to School' is all about community.

Tips to make your walk/bike activities are safe and enjoyable:

  • Plan your route.
  • Always wear a helmet when riding a bike.
  • Stay visible. Wear light and bright-colored clothing.
  • Stay alert. Enjoy time away from the phone.
  • Children can ride their bicycles on the sidewalk. If riding in the street; please ride with traffic, obey all traffic laws, and use proper hand signals.
  • When possible, cross at a crosswalk. Only cross when safe to do so. Make eye contact with the drivers and make sure all cars have stopped before crossing.




Filed Under: Events, WHO, awareness