As the sun rose on Wednesday morning, Carrboro Elementary School students and their families met at Wilson Park on foot, bicycles, tricycles and rollerblades.
The group walked, biked and rolled to school together in light of Walk & Roll to School Day on Oct. 12, as proclaimed by Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils.
The day is an initiative from the National Center for Safe Routes to School and encourages students to travel to school by modes of transportation besides cars. Carrboro is one of many participating towns across the country.
The day is also designed to promote healthy habits, a clean environment and community safety.
“Cars can pollute a lot, and that’s definitely not good,” Anna Stromberg, a fourth-grader at CES, said.
Stromberg said she usually rides the bus, but on Walk & Roll to School Day, she sped to school on her rollerblades.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions – it accounts for 27 percent of total emissions.
“If we walk or bike to school, there won’t be as much pollution,” Millie Gilstrap, a second-grader at CES, said.
Gilstrap said she walked to school for the initiative.
Seils said Carrboro has participated in the day for many years.
“It meets our goals around environmental protection by cutting down on traffic going to school, it teaches kids how to be safe — getting around the community in ways that don't involve getting into a car,” Seils said.
Stephen Heiny, a research associate with the UNC Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC), said the HSRC works with Safe Routes to School to track and promote alternate modes of transportation.
Heiny said the attention brought to pedestrian and bicycle traffic on days such as Walk & Roll to School Day can lead to policy changes in schools and communities.
For example, schools may be inclined to implement new bike racks, change drop-off patterns or renovate sidewalks once more children travel to school on wheels and by foot, he added.
“It's really trying to encourage that habit of getting out of the car and trying to get to school through some other active means,” Heiny said.
Heiny said having elected officials engage in these types of events allows policymakers to see what is possible in the community and what improvements need to be made.
Both Seils and Mayor Pro Tempore Susan Romaine attended the event at Wilson Park Wednesday morning and walked with the students and their families to CES.
Seils also said he acknowledges that policymakers are responsible for ensuring that traveling to school is safe, including having proper biking and pedestrian infrastructure.
Susan Murray, a first-grade teacher at CES, said she bikes to school nearly every day.
“Commuting, whether it's by bike or whatever, is really about working on a system or a pattern in your family, so you can establish the habit,” Murray said.
Heiny said Walk & Roll to School Day is designed to encourage lasting habits, so students will continue to use alternate transportation methods beyond the single day.
“You want to get kids walking, biking to school, really young, it’s the kind of thing they maintain throughout their lives, whether it's walking to work, or taking the bus or whatever,” Seils said. “Starting now is really important.”
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