Local Businesses Can Help Kids Walk and Ride Bikes to School

Elk Meadow bikers
By Katy Bryce, for Commute Options

Central Oregon is not only known for awesome recreational bicycling, but also for students riding their bikes to school. Elk Meadow Elementary School was recognized once again for its stellar efforts in getting kids riding bikes and walking to school.

The “Fire Up Your Feet” Fall Challenge, from October 1 – 31, encouraged students, parents, guardians, teachers, and school staff to “walk or roll” to and from school. The Challenge calculated the total number of participants who tracked their activity divided by school enrollment. Throughout the month, Elk Meadow participants tracked their trips, resulting in an impressive tie for second place in Oregon and $1,000 awarded to the school Parent Teach Organization.

In addition to second place, the school also won an additional award of $500 for the PeopleForBikes CHALLENGE Award. This award went to the top three schools in the nation with the highest percentage of participants tracking bicycle activity. Fire Up Your Feet and Walk+Bike Day have become permanent fixtures as one of the many wellness activities Elk Meadow includes encouraging well-rounded students and greater school community.

Studies show that kids who get at least 60 minutes or more of physical activity a day are not only healthier, but also do better in school. Active kids are shown to have improved attendance, increased focus, better behavior and higher test scores. Walking or riding bikes to school helps children and families stay active throughout the day while also getting to and from school.

Getting kids active and encouraging them to walk or ride their bikes to school is a community effort and Commute Options encourages local businesses to help out. “There are many ways for small businesses to help get kids walking and riding their bikes more in Bend and surrounding communities. Our schools are often located in areas that are surrounded by businesses that have the opportunity to help out,” says Kim Curley, Community Outreach Director for Commute Options.

Offer up your business as a gathering place for families to start a “walking school bus.” A walking school bus is an organized group of students and families that all walk to school together and has proven to be a safe and fun way to get to school. C.E. Lovejoy’s Market in the Brookswood Meadow Plaza offered their outdoor area to families as a starting place for a walking school bus to Elk Meadow Elementary School.

Provide snacks or beverages for families that walk or bike to school. Providing a little cup of hot cocoa for students or coffee for parents can be a toasty way to support walking to school, especially in the winter months!

Offer prizes or sponsor a celebration party for a classroom that logs the most walking and biking trips to and from school.

Partner with Commute Options to help sponsor the Safe Routes to School Program for a school near your business. The Safe Routes to School Program encourages and educates Central Oregon children on the benefits and safety knowledge of biking and walking to and from school. There are several ways a business can support this program.

Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend. www.katybryce.com