Why Safe Routes to Schools Matter

What steps can we take to get kids off the couch, off their screen and outside? How can we reduce chronic disease, childhood obesity, overwhelming car lines at schools, traffic congestion, air pollution, depression, and social isolation?

Exercise, organized sports and recreation are great but I believe that embedding walking and biking into our daily routine is a significant part of the answer.

Where are the kids? The kids are at school. Let’s start there.

Let’s make it a priority to value kids actively getting themselves to school and provide them with safe routes so they can arrive to school and back home safely.

Let’s be that region where happy, healthy, ready-to-learn kids of all abilities can safely walk and bike to school.

Why? Because the benefits of walking and biking to school are many and go beyond just exercise.

When kids are empowered to walk and bike to school, we all win.

We know that walkable/bikeable towns designed around people and place increase physical activity for people of all ages and abilities.

We know that kids who learn to move young (real young!) — like in preschool — are more likely to move as adults.

We also know that adults who move more are healthier, happier, and better connected with their community.

With the start of another school year well underway, I encourage everyone to get involved at their neighborhood school or at their neighborhood association and take action to support happier, healthier, more ready-to-learn students across Northern Michigan. It matters.

These small neighborhood-level actions – think skipping the car line once in a while to walk with your child or leading a bike train or speaking up at meetings for more sidewalks – will lead to big, society-level changes that can transform the culture of health not just for our kids but for all of us.

This post is authored by Ty Schmidt, executive director of Norte, a Traverse City-based non-profit organization dedicated to building stronger, better connected and more pedestrian- and bike-friendly communities by empowering the young and young at heart. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a long-time supporter of Norte’s Northern Michigan Walks to School Day, a region-wide, multi-school celebration of National Walk to School Day.  

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Photo credit: shironosov

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