Efforts underway to encourage walking and biking to school
Now that schools are back in session, school walking and bicycling programs are back too. The latest research indicates that regular, half-hour sessions of aerobic activity before school helped all young children become more attentive and less moody, and especially benefits those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), possibly enabling them to reduce medication. Quite simply, exercise—such as walking or biking to school—improves students’ attention and academic skills.
That’s one reason Heights Bicycle Coalition (HBC) has been promoting Walk or Bike to School days in the spring and fall, since 2010. Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District now includes these dates on its calendar.
This year, the Heights’s fall Walk or Bike to School Day is Wednesday, Oct. 8. This is also International Walk to School Day. To honor the occasion, Clif Kid (kid-specific products by Clif Bars) is giving K–5 schools (including all CH-UH public elementary schools) kits that include banners, educational sheets, reflective stickers and Clif Kid Fruit Rope.
Last fall and winter, the City of Cleveland Heights, HBC and the school district collaborated to develop a Cleveland Heights School Travel Plan that encompasses five schools: Canterbury Elementary, Roxboro Elementary, Oxford Elementary, Monticello Middle and Hebrew Academy. Last February, Cleveland Heights used this plan to apply for funding for infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects to increase safety for children walking or biking to these schools.
In May, the Ohio Department of Transportation awarded Cleveland Heights $207,000 for the projects. The city is currently completing paperwork required to obtain the funds. Non-infrastructure funds ($7,000) will be spent this academic year, but the infrastructure improvements (long-lasting ladder crosswalks, for example) won’t come until the 2015–16 academic year. Another round of applications is due February 2015.
There’s more. In June, the Greater Cleveland Trails & Greenways Conference recognized HBC for its after-school bike clubs, which currently take place at Fairfax and Canterbury elementary schools. Aided by the police bike unit, several schools have bike rodeos or assemblies each year to teach safe cycling, and one goal is for bicycle and pedestrian safety to become a regular part of schools’ physical education curriculum.
For more information, or to join the efforts to help encourage walking and bicycling at your favorite school, or all schools, contact Mary Dunbar, HBC president, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216-321-1335.
The Heights Bicycle Coalition was formed in the spring of 2010 and works to encourage citizens to ride their bicycles for fun, fitness and transportation.