For one week in October, students across the Tucson region participated in our Safe Routes to School WALKtober Challenge, a friendly competition aimed at encouraging kids and families to walk and bike to school. Over 10,000 students from 51 different elementary and middle schools participated in the fun. And of course, a walk-to-school challenge wouldn’t be complete without some winners! There were ten grand prize winning schools awarded with a bike or scooter to give to one lucky student, thanks to the generosity of Challenge underwriters, Pacific Cycle and Pima County Department of Environmental Quality.
Walking and biking to school is already common for some students, but for many families, this required thinking outside of their daily routine to figure out ways to incorporate active travel into their commute. With a little planning and creativity, schools made WALKtober accessible and fun for everyone.
Our favorite school-led activities were Park-and-Go and the Walking School Bus. Park-and-Go was perfect for students who live too far to walk or bike and who normally get dropped off. Parents parked a few blocks away from the school so students could walk the rest of the way to class. And the Walking School Bus is just like it sounds: a designated leader (usually parent or teacher) walked along a specific route, “picking up” students along the way. This was also organized as a Bike Train, for kids biking to school.
While the Challenge only lasted one-week, the benefits extend far beyond that. Our hope is that WALKtober helped students and families see the fun and adventure in active commuting and that they’ll consider these as ways to get around in the future. It’s a win-win! Replacing trips in the car with walking and biking not only increases physical activity, but also helps kids show up to school alert and ready to learn.