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August 7, 2018

Sidewalk Stompers: Walk your way to a better school year

This is what back to school mornings look like for most Tampa Bay parents: get in the car! Buckle up! Traffic jam! Carline! Move it along! 

What if there were a better option? What if your morning drop-off routine looked more like this: holding hands with your child as you walk to school together, talking face to face about the day ahead, listening to mockingbirds trill their morning song overhead, greeting friends and neighbors before stopping at the school gate to give your child a real hug goodbye (and the joy of a few minutes by yourself as you walk back home to start your own day!). 

Sidewalk Stompers Tampa

Walking to school is a simple, but effective way to get your family’s school year off to a good start. 

  1. It’s healthy! With childhood obesity rates continuing to rise in the United States, normalizing routine exercise can put your child on a better path. Outdoor exercise and before-school activity also aids children’s mental health and school preparedness. 
  2. It’s community building! The face-to-face interactions allowed when out of the car connect parent to child, child to child, neighbor to neighbor. 
  3. It’s neighborhood building! Neighborhoods with people out walking have higher home values, more successful business corridors and lower crime rates. 

Sidewalk Stompers, a school zone pedestrian advocacy initiative, launched in 2016 with two simple goals: 1) Get more kids walking to school and 2) Make it safe for them to do so.

Related: Sidewalk Stompers: Good for your body, school, and community

One goal follows the other. With more children walking to school, it’s easier to make the argument for adding more sidewalks, safety infrastructure, school zone signage and better pedestrian-friendly road designs. 

So how do we get more kids walking to school?

Sidewalk Stompers award-winning walk-to-school programs provide clear, easy to implement plans and, in many cases, funding options. All it takes is a few volunteers, a willing school community and some little feet ready to get moving in the morning.  

  • Walk to School Wednesday: Elementary students participating in weekly events are tracked with stamped tally cards and rewarded for their efforts with individual and class competition prizes. Walking School Buses (promoted by Safe Routes to School) can be a beneficial component of these events. 
  • Road Safety Project: Middle school students take responsibility for their own safety by rewarding fellow students for making safe decisions crossing the road to school. 

With support from the Hillsborough County School District and the Hillsborough Planning Commission, Sidewalk Stompers programs can be an effective part of any school transportation solution. 

Sidewalk Stompers Tampa

Follow Sidewalk Stompers on Facebook: Sidewalk Stompers; visit www.sidewalkstompers.org; or email [email protected] to learn about launching a successful walk to school program. 

Originally published in the August 2018 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.

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