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Schools reward biking, walking

Program part of city effort to cut down traffic, increase safety for pedestrians

Posted: October 21, 2009 10:28 p.m.
Updated: October 22, 2009 9:00 a.m.
 
Students from Santa Clarita Valley elementary schools who walked and rode their bicycles to campus Wednesday were greeted with stickers and raffle tickets for a new bike.

About 136 Old Orchard Elementary students participated in a day celebrating Bike and Walk to School Month, a city-sponsored program that encouraged students and parents to find healthy alternatives to driving, school officials said.

“The bike area was overflowing,” said Principal Florence Hanan, who added that about 50 students rode their bicycles compared to the usual 20 or so.

“We are always looking for different ways to interest students in healthy living habits.”

As students arrived to the campus, they were given raffle tickets for a $250 gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods, Hanan said. Another incentive was a party for the class with the highest number of participants.

Other schools that participated were Pinetree Community School, North Park Elementary School and Rio Vista Elementary School.

The city’s senior traffic engineer, Ian Pari, said bicycling and walking to school not only keeps students in shape, but also helps ease traffic.

“It’s been found that up to 25 percent of traffic around schools is school related,” he said. “If you could even reduce that by half, that will have a huge impact on traffic around schools and just in general.”

But the change starts with parents, he added.

“What happens is often parents will have a fear of their kids walking to school, so they’ll drive them and it becomes a perpetuating cycle where the fewer kids who walk, the more fearful parents become,” he said. “If you could reverse that, there’s strength in numbers.”

The city and the school are working to create “walking school bus” days with walking routes that have checkpoints with parent volunteers who guide the children walking in groups, said Alta Planning and Design associate Lauren Ledbetter, a bicycle and pedestrian planning firm that works with the city.

The program was funded through the city’s Safe Routes to School grant, Pari said.

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