Palo Alto students buck trends on commuting

More local kids 'walk and roll' to school, leading to better fitness levels

Today (Wednesday) is "Walk & Roll Day" on Palo Alto school campuses, in which students get treats for using human-powered or carpool transportation to school.

Across the school district, teachers and parent volunteers stood at gates to campuses and bike cages to hand out stickers and candy.

"Palo Alto students are bucking the national trend of being driven to school," said Fairmeadow parent Penny Ellson, a member and former chair of the PTA Council Traffic Safety Committee.

Children who walk or bike to school have higher daily levels of physical activity and better cardiovascular fitness than kids who get driven, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The past decade has seen a significant boost in the number of Palo Alto kids biking to school, according to tallies taken on campuses each September.

As of last fall, 33 percent of Gunn High School students and 32 percent of Palo Alto High School students bicycled to school, up from 11 percent and 15 percent a decade ago, according to counts compiled by a city-school traffic safety group.

In the middle schools, more than 50 percent of Jordan students; nearly 50 percent of JLS students and more than 30 percent of Terman students rode their bicycles to school last fall.

The numbers for 2010 have not yet been compiled, but parent volunteers say the trends remain positive.

"Several schools, including Paly and Gunn, are adding bike parking again this year. JLS and a number of elementary schools added bike parking spaces over the last several years," Ellson said.

Research on children's active commuting to school has "expanded rapidly" in recent years, driven largely by international declines in rates of walking and bicycling to school and the noted health benefits of active commuting, a CDC abstract said.

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Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2010 at 10:11 am

This was called "International Walk to School Day" on tv today (Walk and Roll Day is just our local name for it). Internationally, more kids walk or bike to school as the only way to get to school. They don't need to encourage kids to walk or bike to school, but it seems that we do. And, it is often not the kids who need to be told to get out of the cars, but the protective parents who are afraid to let the kids become independent walkers or bikers.

Like this comment
Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2010 at 10:43 am

Resident, you are so right. Most kids are thrilled to be able to power themselves to school but it is the parents that need convincing.

Like this comment
Posted by pamom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 6, 2010 at 11:14 am

One of the photos shows parent volunteers handing out sugary treats to "reward" kids for riding to school. Why does something as natural and healthy as riding to school require a reward? And why give a teeth rotting, weight increasing reward like candy?

Like this comment
Posted by Frank
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 6, 2010 at 11:56 am

Good work to all the parents who organized this and to the kids of course who walked or rolled to school today.

Keep in mind encouraging our children to bike to school sometimes means some inconvenience to automobiles. Currently there are some complaints about the new lane arrangement on Arastradero Road. I've driven and bicycled this street and I think the new arrangement is better for bicyclists.

Like this comment
Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 6, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Ummm, pamom, because they are kids? Take a chill pill why don't you?

Like this comment
Posted by robit noops
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 6, 2010 at 12:32 pm

My parents never drove me to school, I remember walking miles in the rain. I never got a "treat" for doing anything, my daddy said "i love you" with his belt.mexKU These kids are spoiled.

Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 6, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I stood on a bus stop in zero weather bundled in heavy coat, snow boots, and knit cap waiting for a city-line bus to take me to school. There were NO school busses except for children who lived in the rural areas - and they had to get up in the dark and wait in the winter dark for the bus then spend 1-2 hours on the bus after school to get home. If they were lucky, their Dad made them a small shed to wait in. We have the best weather in the world. When our kids went to , Jordan, Paly, they rode bikes years ago. Don't drive them. The rain won't melt them. Buy a poncho.

Like this comment
Posted by pamom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 6, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Palo Parent - Sure they're kids; they'll soon become young adults who are fat and driven by external rewards.

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Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2010 at 3:50 pm

The sugary treat issue is an important one and I am surprised that the volunteers were allowed to do this. When I organized some of the first of these events we had long discussions with the principal regarding what kind of rewards could be given, and food of any kind was out. The County Health Department is sponsoring these events outside Palo Alto and they are very sensitive to this issue, and they don't usually give food. This year they are giving several rewards, one of which is Clif Z-Bars, which meet all the nutritional standards for serving in California public schools.

Like this comment
Posted by Seriously?
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 6, 2010 at 5:12 pm

One piece of candy is not going to ruin these kids' entire perspective on nutrition and ambition. What is wrong with this world that we have to have meetings discussing whether volunteer parents can hand out a piece of candy per child? Feed your child properly the other 99% of the time, make sure they brush their teeth and get some physical activity in. If you can't do this, stop yelping over one piece of candy. If you can do this, teach them to politely refuse the candy and if they don't, don't assume their morals and standards have completely disappeared over one sweet treat. If they do disappear over a piece of candy, question your parenting.

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Short story writers wanted!

The 33rd Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 29. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

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