In recognition of its seven-year track record promoting safe walking and bicycling routes to school for children and fighting obesity, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presented Safe Routes to School National Partnership (http://www.saferoutespartnership.org) with the 2012 Game Changer Award. Safe Routes to School National Partnership Director Deb Hubsmith accepted the award at the Weight of the Nation Conference in Washington, D.C., a gathering of public policy makers and health leaders engaged in obesity prevention and control initiatives.
The Game Changer Award nominations reflect activities that have led to paradigm shifts that have advanced obesity prevention efforts.
“Bicycling and walking to school is one of our nation’s best remedies for childhood obesity,” said Bruno Maier, vice president of the Bikes Belong Foundation. “Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s work is critical to reversing this trend. It has ignited a powerful national movement bringing public health, school and transportation officials together to build a healthier future for children and adults. We congratulate Deb and her team for their tireless efforts.”
“The statistics are startling,” said Hubsmith. “Between 1969 and 2009, the number of children who bicycled or walked to school fell 75%, while the percentage of obese children tripled. Our work helps communities make it safe, fun and convenient for children to walk and bicycle to school and in daily life. This award acknowledges the work of countless parent volunteers, dedicated engineers, committed educators and enthusiastic children who are true game changers in tens of thousands of communities across the country.”
Today, more than 12,000 schools and five million children benefit from Safe Routes to School programs throughout the U.S. Large urban areas across the entire country, from Washington, DC to Los Angeles, and smaller rural regions such as central Wisconsin and north central Montana, are encouraging children to be active through walking and bicycling. In Eugene, Oregon, at Roosevelt Middle School, comparing 2007 with 2010, the percentage of children bicycling and walking increased from 27 percent to 42 percent. In Eagan, Minnesota, at Red Pine Elementary School, 200 children regularly bicycle and walk throughout the year. “The reduction in traffic congestion around the school has been dramatic,” said Gary Anger, principal at Red Pine Elementary School. “Before the Safe Routes to School program, approximately 100 cars were arriving every day. Now, just 40 to 45 vehicles drop off children each day. Our children arrive ready to learn and our school community is learning about healthy habits they can practice their entire life.”
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is also celebrating National Bike Month. This month, millions of Americans are participating in 450 events nationwide, highlighting the benefits of bicycling and the need for bike-friendly transportation policies. As part of this celebration, the inaugural National Bike to School Day is being held May 9 to encourage more children and families to safely bicycle or walk to school.