May was a busy time for two local schools participating in a month-long walking and biking challenge. Students at Troutdale and Sweetbriar elementary schools walked, biked, and skateboarded to school in hopes of racking up the trips to be eligible for prizes.
The Walk and Bike Challenge is a friendly competition among Oregon elementary and middle schools aimed at encouraging more kids and families to use “active transportation” to travel to and from school and throughout the neighborhood. The event is sponsored by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) - Transportation Safety Division, the Portland Bureau of Transportation Safe Routes to School, Kaiser Permanente, and Keen Footwear.
School staff tracks the number of students biking, walking and skating to school throughout the month. A number of events were held in early May at the schools, including bicycle helmet fittings and sales, school assemblies, and a first-time Walking School Bus event at Troutdale Elementary School (see sidebar article).
Both schools have nearly a third or more of their student population participating in the challenge. “It is all very exciting to see such a turnout for this event. We were aiming for a reasonable amount of participation for both events and so far we have gone beyond what we expected,” reported Melissa Paselk, the coordinator for Troutdale Elementary. Sweetbriar Elementary saw 330 students participate in the challenge the first week, with one kindergarten classroom having 100% of its students participating at least once.
Multnomah County has been partnering with several schools in East County over the past year to develop and implement Safe Routes to School Action Plans. Funding to support these activities came from two grants awarded by the ACTS Oregon (Alliance for Community Traffic Safety) and the ODOT - Transportation Safety Division. With the success of this May’s program, the County looks forward to continuing to work with schools to expand the Safe Routes to School Program.
As part of the May Walk and Bike Challenge, Troutdale Elementary School held their first Walking School Bus Event on May 18th. The Walking School Bus organizes groups of children to walk to school with one or more adults accompanying them. Approximately 55 students and volunteers were involved in the event that had some students walking over half a mile to school.
Walking School Bus routes started as early as 7:15am with routes ranging in size from 5 kids to 22 kids on one route. The routes were identified as part of the Troutdale Elementary School’s Safe Routes to School Action Plan developed as part of the County’s pilot Safe Routes to School program last year. Participation in the May Walk and Bike Challenge and the Walking School Bus activity are education and encouragement components of the Action Plan that aims to make it safe, convenient and fun for children to walk and bike to school.