Half of the students who live south of Belding Elementary in Old Irving Park/ Mayfair neighborhoods have to take a bus to get to school.
A lot of these students live within walking and biking distance of the school but have to be bussed in order to avoid the Kennedy Expressway, which has two exit ramps running through the school’s boundaries, making it a hazard for them to get to school safely.
But this hasn’t stopped Belding parents and staff from finding solutions to create a safe walking and biking environment in their community.
To get more students physically active, Belding holds a Walking Wednesdays program that encourages parents and students to walk laps around a track for fifteen minutes before school starts.
“It’s a way to [motivate] people who don’t walk to school to come early and get a little extra jolt in the morning,” said Lynn Ankney, an active parent-volunteer at Belding. “It’s growing. If kids see classmates, they’ll break off from their parents and run around and have races. It’s [also] a time for them to socialize.”
This year, as part of International Walk to School Day on October 7, Belding is holding their second annual Bike to School Day.
Students are encouraged to bike to school where they will be able to get it tuned-up, learn about bike safety and ride in a bike rodeo.
But not all schools currently have the capacity for programs that make biking and walking easier and safer.
To help the schools that don’t have the resources for new programs, the Illinois’ Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program provides grant funding to schools and communities across the state to fund projects that make it easier to bike and walk to school.
Unfortunately, this program doesn’t provide enough support to communities that really need help. The program needs more funding and administrative changes in order to reach communities that need it most.
What can you do to help? Join the Safe Routes for Healthy Kids Campaign to improve this program on Walk to School Day on Wednesday, October 7 and show your community the importance of making biking and walking to school safer.
Tell your state representative about the urgent need to improve this program, and use the hashtag #SafeRoutesIL to share photos and stories on social media.