For five years, Healthy Central Florida (HCF) and the Winter Park Health Foundation have been promoting walking and biking to school at the ten elementary and middle school serving children and youth from Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville.
To encourage this important form of physical activity which also benefits learning, retention and classroom behavior, Healthy Central Florida has offered mini-grants to the schools, held workshops, conducted research, recruited volunteers, and worked closely with the schools to encourage more children to walk and bike to school safely.
Participating schools tally students four times per year as they walk, bike and skate to school. The numbers had been steadily increasing, but International Walk to School Day had yet to break the 2,000-participant mark.
On May 10, 2017, National Bike to School Day, the ten local schools collectively broke all previous records and surpassed 2,000 participants – 2,008 to be exact!
Each year, International Walk to School Day, which takes place annually in early October, regularly draws the best bike/ped participation for the entire school year. This year’s National Bike to School Day local participation was 9.6% greater than the October tally of 1,832 students.
“We have been working with our outstanding school partners for five years now. They really believe in the importance of children being able to walk and bike to school, and see the strong connection to overall student success,” said Jill Hamilton Buss, Executive Director of Healthy Central Florida. “This success is attributable to them and to our work with local cities as we work together to address issues cited by parents as barriers to kids walking and biking – missing sidewalks, speeding traffic, crosswalk improvements, etc. It’s a long process, but we’re making progress and our numbers prove it.”
There is more good news. Healthy Central Florida hosts “Walk ‘n’ Roll Wednesdays” and promotes walking and biking on target days. This year the organization saw a 9% increase in participation over the baseline tallies that were taken on days not promoted.
This Walk ‘n’ Roll MOVEment is a shining success and testimony to community partnerships. It takes schools, parents, city government and organizations like Healthy Central Florida and the Winter Park Health Foundation working together to make walking and biking the safe, preferred mode of travel for our kids.