Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica Celebrates International Walk to School Day with Walking School Buses
By Jason Islas
October 3, 2012 -- This Bike It! Walk It! Day expect to see droves of middle schoolers walking, instead of riding in cars, to school Wednesday and Friday.
As part of the City's efforts to reduce car trips, officials are organizing walks to John Adams and Lincoln Middle Schools this Bike It! Walk It! Day, which coincides with International Walk to School Day on October 3.
Groups of students will be led by civic leaders like Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis and Board of Eduction member Maria Leon Vazquez on Wednesday, then again on Friday.
“I'm really excited to be a part of Bike It! Walk It! Day,” said Davis. “It's a way for all younger children to get to school safely without the use of an automobile.”
“This is a new program,” said Alison Kendall, a coordinator for Bike It! Walk It! Day, said about the walking school buses.
On October 3, students will meet at Douglas Park Playground at 9 a.m. and walk, with Davis, Vazquez, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Phil Brock and Board of Education member Nimesh Patel, to Lincoln Middle School.
On October 5, students will gather at Grant Elementary by 8:30 a.m. and be led to JAMS by Vazquez, Brock and Planning Commissioner Jim Ries.
“Big Blue Bus has gotten in on the action, too,” said Kendall. Since Bike It! Walk It! Day is about encouraging alternate forms of transportation, Big Blue Bus is offering free bus rides to students on Wednesday and Friday.
“We've handed out 500 (bus passes) at SAMOHI alone,” said Kendall.
Designated Bike It! Walk It! days, which are set aside to encourage children to find safe, alternative ways of getting to school without a car, are only part of the tools Bike It! Walk It! uses to get kids out of cars.
Kendall said that the Bike It! Walk It! “movement” is also about education.
With over $250,000 in funding from the National Center for Safe Routes School as well as other sources, Kendall anticipates bringing bicycle and pedestrian training to schools throughout the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified District.
To that end, in September, volunteers hosted two free bike skills workshops at Lincoln and JAMS.
“Students went out and practiced in the streets with lead cycling instructors,” she said. “It was a really great experience.”
Already, the City opened a bike campus near the beach just off Ocean Park Boulevard where residents can practice bike skills.
The next Bike It! Walk It! Day will likely fall in May, around National Bike to School Day.
“We hope by spring to introduce bike trains as well,” she added, which would be similar to the “Walking School Buses,” only on bikes.
So far, Bike It! Walk It! Day -- which began in 2007 -- has been successful, Kendall said.
In 2010, there were 3,100 participants in the district and in 2011, there were 3,000.
Kendall is confident that this year, they will match those numbers or better.
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