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Trying To Put Pupils, Parents Back On Feet

Effort To Revive Walking To School Is Stumbling

October 15, 2009|By Joe Burris | Joe Burris,joseph.burris@baltsun.com

Thunder Hill Elementary School in Columbia celebrates Walk to School Day as a part of its PTA Healthy Lifestyles Walking Program called Moving Mondays, which is similar to the program at Stoneleigh Elementary.

Last year, 350 Thunder Hill students participated, walking a total of 2,160 miles (the approximate distance from Columbia to the California state line). This academic year, the students have already logged a total of 312 miles.

A little help from Mom

"I run to school to save gas," said Thunder Hill second-grader Thomas Brinkley, who added that he runs "as long as my mom carries my backpack."

Students at Mills-Parole Elementary got a visit from Otto the Auto, AAA Mid-Atlantic's remote-controlled talking car that engages children in traffic safety exercises.

For many parents, opting to walk is a way of avoiding the hassles of congested school parking areas.

Karen Cornfeld, whose two children attend Severna Park Elementary, said that they all ride bikes to school. "We usually are opening our garage door to put the bikes away while our neighbors are driving home from school, so we get home at the same time," she said.

Walker of Severna Park said that each time she sees parents and children walking she considers walking more often.

"I think about it every day when Karen Cornfeld rides her children on bikes past me," Walker said. "I think, 'Why don't I just not get in the car and follow Karen and her kids?' They ride past my house to school every day. It depends on your life. Sometimes, depending on where you live, it would be more time-consuming."

But Walker added that she would consider the move "for the environment, and for bringing the traffic down."

Should your kids walk to school?

The National Center for Safe Routes to School suggests that if you're trying to decide whether to allow your kids to walk to school by themselves, you first walk with them. Then ask yourself these questions before you decide:

* Did you have room to walk? Were there passable sidewalks?

* Was it easy to cross streets? Or were the roads too wide, with parked cars blocking your view?

* Did drivers behave well? Watch out for perpetual speeding, or drivers backing out of driveways without looking.

* Was it easy to follow safety rules? Were there crosswalks, or corners where pedestrians could see in both directions before crossing?

* Was your walk pleasant? Look for hazards such as poor lighting, trash and scary dogs.

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