The streets of Larchmont were filled with children walking to Chatsworth Avenue School on “Walking School Bus” routes on Wednesday morning, March 25. The children carried bright yellow signs that read “CAUTION: Walking School Bus” as a warning to motorists and an invitation to other children to join in along the route to school.
The “bus routes” were set up by the Chatsworth Safe Routes to School Committee to encourage families to leave the car behind during the morning commute to school. The one-day event complemented a month-long observance of Nutrition Month at Chatsworth. Already there are plans to bring back the “bus routes” later this spring.
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a national initiative that promotes health and fitness among youth by providing safe walking and biking routes to schools. Each elementary school in the Mamaroneck School District now has a Safe Routes to School Committee. The committees also help develop programs to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution around the schools.
The Walking School Buses were an instant hit with parents and children alike. “Walking to school is a fantastic way to start the day,” said Stacy Caffrey, a Chatsworth parent who lives in the Manor and led a walking school bus. “Even if the kids are crabby and irritable when they wake up, by the time we walk to school they feel refreshed and ready for the day.”
A student travel survey conducted last spring in each Chatsworth classroom highlighted the need to raise awareness among families that walking and biking to school is a healthy option. Most Chatsworth homes are less than a mile from the school. The survey showed that 57% of students arrive to school by car, with only 2% using a carpool. Approximately 35% walk and less than 1% bike. The goal of the Safe Routes to School Committee is to persuade more families to walk and bike through education and encouragement campaigns. The “Walking School Bus” is one such effort.
The next campaign will be “Walk to School Week” on May 11-15. The SRTS committee is planning to distribute Walking School Bus time tables which will highlight the routes the “buses” will take, including time of departure and arrival. Once more families realize how healthy and environmentally friendly walking and biking to school is, the committee would like to see a once-a-week commitment to walking throughout the school year.
(Liz Fitzgerald is a member of the Chatsworth Safe Routes to School Committee.)