The event is coordinated by the Federal Highway Administration's National Center for Safe Routes to School, and they've done a terrific job because--although it's just the first year--more than 700 schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia are participating. As Safe Routes director Lauren Marchetti said, "We knew there was support for a spring bike to school day. We couldn’t be more pleased with how many communities and families are coming together to promote biking to school on this one day."
I couldn't agree more. At a time when our kids need more physical activity and we need to reduce vehicle emissions, walking and biking to school help put us on the path to a healthier future.
And when you see the "bike trains" and "walking school buses" as neighborhood kids and parents come together on the way to and from school, it's also clear that walking and biking to school strengthens communities.
That's why the National Center for Safe Routes to School is so important. Through the Center's efforts, more than 12,000 school communities have worked to make bicycling and walking to school safer and more appealing.
Here in Washington, DC, at a multi-school gathering in Lincoln Park, National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland reminded a crowd of kids, parents, teachers--and bikes of all shapes and sizes--that despite all of the terrific benefits of biking, the day's most important lesson is safety.
"Helmets are the single most important piece of safety equipment for riders, and your helmet can prevent a crash from causing a serious injury. Learn the proper way to wear a helmet, and do so every time you ride. Safety also means staying focused when you ride; look out for traffic, pedestrians, and obstacles on the road. You can also help keep our ride safe by wearing bright colors so drivers can see you."
Of course, the rest of us can help by being good "Roll Models," which means demonstrating safe behavior whether we're walking, biking, or driving. You can learn more about NHTSA's Roll Model partnership with AAA at NHTSA's Parents' Central website.
The success of this first-ever National Bike to School Day illustrates that communities across the country understand the need to provide students with healthy options for getting to and from school.
Many thanks to the local Safe Routes coordinators across the country. I look forward to seeing this terrific program expand to even more schools next year and in the years to come.