HARRISBURG – In celebration of International Walk to School Day on Oct. 6, PennDOT is asking parents and communities to promote safe walking and bicycling to school. October is also recognized as Walk to School month.
“Walking or bicycling to school is a great opportunity for exercise and promotes a healthy lifestyle,” said PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. “However, it is also a necessity for many students across Pennsylvania. Students, parents and motorists need to continue to work together to ensure the safety of students on their way to and from school.”
Parents should remind students to walk on the sidewalk, or if there is no sidewalk, to walk on the side of the road facing traffic. Students should only cross streets at corners or marked crosswalks and look left, right and then left again before stepping into the street. Additionally, children should always wear bright-colored clothes and carry flashlights if it is dark or hard to see.
For students who are bicycling to school, PennDOT reminds parents that children under the age of 12 are required by law to wear a properly fitting helmet. Bicyclists should also ride along the right side of the road with traffic and signal their intentions in advance. Bicycle riders must obey all traffic signs and signals, and riders should look left, right and then left again before entering an intersection.
If possible, children should develop a buddy system for walking or bicycling to school. For safety reasons, they should avoid shortcuts that include alleys or unfamiliar areas.
Students are also advised to be alert at all times and avoid distractions such as cell phones or headphones.
To help schools and communities improve safety and promote walking and bicycling, PennDOT uses the federal Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) program. Over the past three years, 40 schools have received $5,000 mini-grants for non-infrastructure activities that help promote education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation at each school. Examples of these include walking programs, classroom curriculum materials, crossing guard supplies or training, and assemblies focused on bicycle safety.
Along with the mini-grants for non-infrastructure activities, PennDOT last year awarded $16.7 million to schools or municipalities for 30 construction projects related to the SRTS program. Examples of the projects include sidewalk and curb improvements, updated signage or signals, installation of crosswalks or bike racks, and various other traffic calming features.
For more information on safe walking and bicycling, visit www.DriveSafePA.org then click “Traffic Safety Information Center,” and then “Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety.”