By EarthShare Oregon Member Charity Bicycle Transportation Alliance
Our kids are getting less exercise than any previous generation. One in three kids in the US is overweight or obese, conditions that lead to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension—and eventually early death.
Something as simple as walking to school every day isn’t an option for many families in the US. Too many communities lack safe sidewalks, bikeways, and crosswalks. Kids who most need opportunities for physical activity often don’t have safe routes for walking or biking to school, which could give them 66% percent of their recommended daily exercise.
That’s why, in 2014, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance partnered with 89 other organizations to secure funding to ensure every kid in Portland, Oregon has a safe and healthy way to get to school. Schools with well-supported programs have seen walking and biking to school quadruple in one year.
Our “For Every Kid Coalition” called for these simple, but impactful changes:
1) Make streets and crossings within the mile-radius of schools safer.
2) Empower communities to take charge of their own health and safety with bike and pedestrian safety education.
3) Create communities of families walking and biking together through fun, school-based events.
To achieve these goals, we worked with city, county, and Metro staff, local elected officials, businesses, and residents to show how Safe Routes to School can increase walking and biking to school by 40% and be a regional solution to health issues, street safety, and inequality.
We engaged and activated thousands of people in writing postcards, sending emails, making phone calls, attending rallies, testifying at public meetings, and much more.
Austin Hecker, a 10-year-old from John Wetten Elementary in Gladstone, spoke about his route to school prior to a pivotal funding vote.
“People who are driving are in a rush to get to work and us kids are small and hard to see. I want to be safe and I want my friends to be safe too. Please dedicate funding for safe streets for kids."
Ultimately, with the impassioned voices of people like Austin, we were able to win $3.5M for Safe Routes to School and over $25M for active transportation projects. Because of this win, hundreds of kids, families, and elders in the Portland-area will now be able to safely walk, bike, and access transit in their neighborhoods!
When it’s convenient and fun to walk to neighborhood schools, our children are healthier, our streets are safer for everyone, and our communities thrive. Although For Every Kid ran a successful Portland Metro campaign, there are still thousands of kids throughout the state (and the country) without a safe route to school. That’s why For Every Kid is back with a statewide vision.
Every kid deserves a safe route to school and a healthy future. To learn more about the For Every Kid campaign, and how to support active transportation in your own community, visit http://ourhealthystreets.org/foreverykid.