Fifty years ago, almost one-half of students walked or biked to school. By 2009, according to data from the National Center for Safe Routes to School, it was only 13 percent. The decline in walking and bicycling to school did not happen overnight.
Prior to the 1970’s, schools were located in neighborhoods. However, as new schools were needed and older schools required updates, the higher cost of renovations and land meant that new schools were built further and further from the neighborhoods they served.
With schools no longer located near the students, buses and cars replaced feet and bikes. As motor vehicle traffic increased, parents worried that it was unsafe for their children to walk or bike to school, so even more buses and cars were needed to get students to school, thereby adding more traffic and sustaining the cycle.
The Safe Routes to School Program is interrupting this cycle by assisting localities and schools in the development of infrastructure and activities to make walking and biking to school a safe and fun option for students.
Directly above: Morning rain cleared up in time for more than 1,000 Waynesboro students to take part in Walk to School week. Header photo: Elementary students have a fun time while learning about bike safety.
(photo credits: Steve Garon)
“Getting one more student excited about bicycling is a success. My goal is to build on each success until students and parents from all communities view walking or biking to school as a great way to get active and reduce traffic.“
~ Steve Garon, Waynesboro Safe Routes to School Coordinator
The City of Waynesboro initiated a Safe Routes to School program in 2019 aimed at getting more students walking and bicycling to school. Steve Garon, the Waynesboro Safe Routes to School Coordinator, provides bicycle and safety instruction to Waynesboro students and organizes biking and walking events to promote walking and biking as safe and easy options for students and parents alike to become more active. Since the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, he has provided bicycle safety instruction at each Waynesboro elementary school and organized Walk to School Week, in which more than 1,000 Waynesboro students participated. Plans are underway to expand the program to Staunton Schools.