- (Photo: flickr/mlinksva)
Did you see more kids than usual clogging our District sidewalks this morning? Rest assured that today it's for good reason — October 5 is international Walk to School Day, and 22 schools in Washington, D.C. are participating.
Great Britain kickstarted the initiative with their own walking campaign in the mid-'90s, and the Partnership for a Walkable America sponsored a U.S. version in 1997. Enthusiasm for the movement grew and before long, millions around the world participated. In 2011, Walk to School Day now involves around 4,000 schools in the 50 U.S. states.
Why does this matter? Encouraging a culture of walking and pedestrian life is important, especially in a town as walkable as D.C. Yes, kids should embrace and be excited about their streets. It creates pride in our urban blocks. It lends itself to a health lifestyle as promoted by the First Lady's Let's Move campaign. And in its own way, encouraging our kids' pedestrian tendencies is a way to encourage our own city government to better tend to its infrastructure. As Councilmember Muriel Bowser emphasized that children are the most vulnerable navigators of our transit system last month at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a Petworth traffic light. All pedestrians deserve safe walking conditions, and none moreso than children.
One big component of Walk to School Day is a walking school bus, and D.C. featured four of those today. The concept is simple: An adult leads a group of children safely to their destination. Naturally, these events also provide local officials with a terrific photo opportunity and a way to show that yes, they're kind to children. When you get the people behind Sesame Street to tweet about you, it's a good thing. Local officials who will join our young walkers today include U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, DDOT director Terry Bellamy, Mayor Vince Gray, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez, and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown, among others. They walked to Anne Beers Elementary School in Southeast D.C. a couple hours ago. DDOT, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and others of a smart-growth persuasion are very visibly involved in promoting this event locally and emphasize the good sense and safety of such a day. Do kids learn anything? Likely some lessons get through, year after year. Mark your calendars for next year's Walk to School Day — it's already set for October 3.
The 22 local D.C. schools involved are:
• Aiton Elementary School
• Ron Brown Middle School
• Burrville Elementary School
• Capitol Hill Cluster School
• Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan
• C.W. Harris Elementary School
• Drew Elementary School
• John Eaton Elementary School
• E.L. Haynes Public Charter School
• Lafayette Elementary School
• Lowell School
• Kenilworth Elementary School
• Maury Elementary School
• Thurgood Marshall Elementary School
• Kelly Miller Middle School
• Nalle Elementary School
• Ross Elementary School
• Tyler Elementary School
• Washington International School
• H.D. Woodson High
• Whittier Education Campus
Update, 10:25 a.m.: Although the list above reflects the list of 22 schools that DDOT said was participating, there may have been others. A commenter below mentioned one. Were there any others in the D.C. area we should add to the list?
• Ludlow Taylor Elementary School