Walk to School Day builds support for Safe Routes to School in Hawaii

Sometimes, one day can turn into something much bigger.

In Kauai, Hawaii, a Walk to School Day event at Kapa’a Elementary School boosted community support for a full-fledged Safe Routes to School program. The community was concerned about traffic as well as childhood and adolescent obesity. In 2009-2010, the school was selected to serve as a pilot school for a Safe Routes to School program.

Initially, efforts to implement the SRTS program faced a sizeable challenge. To increase safety for student pedestrians and bicyclists, the 850-student school needed traffic-calming measures and increased visibility in the area surrounding the school. However, residents wanted the island to keep its rural character and worried that too many infrastructure changes would diminish that community asset, explained Jennifer Linton Bloom, Kauai SRTS coordinator. Organizers understood that it would be critical to obtain buy-in from school and community leaders so that a SRTS program could be successful at every school.

To increase awareness and to promote walking and bicycling to school, the school held its first Walk to School Day. In conjunction with the event, the school organized a walking school bus, in which approximately 150 children participated.

The success of Walk to School Day built excitement around SRTS. Program coordinators planned a walking school bus for monthly "Walking Wednesdays" at Kapa'a Elementary.  They also partnered with Get Fit Kauai, the Nutrition and Physical Activity Coalition of Kauai County; the County of Kauai; the Hawaii Department of Education; and the Kauai Police Department to increase the number of kids safely walking and biking to school and to improve safe routes to school through infrastructure and policy changes. Organizers worked with the Kauai Police Department and local media to conduct a “Slow Down in School Zones” media campaign.

Meanwhile, the program continues to expand. In the past two years, three other schools have joined the SRTS program on Kauai and participated in the monthly Walk to School days. Organizers have also created infrastructure plans to improve safety around a total of seven schools.

To read more about this program, visit www.saferoutesinfo.org/data-central/success-stories/walk-school-day-buil....