Suzanne Tobias

Walking to school: Join the revolution

You'd think we wouldn't need an international movement to get parents and kids to take a walk together. I mean, it's a walk.

You turn the television off. You put your shoes on. You grab the backpack, sling or stroller if you have a baby, the leash and pooper scooper if you have a dog. You head outside, and you walk — to school, to the park, around the block.

It's hardly revolutionary.

But generations of buses and carpools — not to mention computers, video games, irrational fears and mass laziness — seem to have left many of today's kids mystified by the concept.

So get ready to welcome "Walktober" on Friday and "International Walk to School Day" on Wednesday.

Safe Kids Kansas Inc. is among several local groups promoting Walk to School Day to encourage kids, parents and others to talk about pedestrian safety.

The event also points out the benefits of walking to school, which include fresh air, exercise, decreased auto emissions and increased sanity. (I added that last one from personal experience. Crisp autumn walks have helped me recover mentally from toddler tantrums, family squabbles, work frustrations and general malaise.)

My son's school is one of 40 across Kansas that will mark Walk to School Day with group walks and lessons on safety. Since ours is a neighborhood school, many kids and families walk already. Others will meet volunteers at prescribed points away from school and walk the rest of the way together, a practice known as a "walking school bus."

"By walking with them on International Walk to School Day, we can identify hazards, act as role models for making good choices and give them the tools to be safer pedestrians," said Cherie Sage, state director for Safe Kids Kansas.

I especially endorse the "act as role models" part. Over the years I've noticed carpool lanes growing ever more fend-for-yourself, ever more drop-off-and-peel-out, and it's worrisome. Kids aren't the only ones who need reminding to use crosswalks, to look left and right, to navigate slowly near schools and to never cross the street between parked cars or buses.

And here's an idea: Even if your school doesn't participate in Walk to School Day next week, even if you live too far or leave too late, take a walk sometime anyway. Grab your shoes after dinner and just go for a stroll.

You'll notice things you hadn't before. You'll pat dogs and smile at neighbors. You'll feel healthier and breathe easier.

And you'll wonder why you don't do this more often.

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