Safe Routes to School is a good start

Our children are fat.

In one generation, the number of overweight children has tripled. It is predicted that the current group of people under the age of 10 will be outlived by their parents. Overweight and fat people have numerous health problems such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease. The overweight and fat youth don’t date, have trouble getting work and are unattractive to look at.

How did we get into this state of such ill health? One factor is the lack of physical activity. In 1969, 50 percent of children walked or bicycled to school with 87 percent of those living within one mile of school biking or walking. Today, fewer than 15 percent of school children walk or bike to school. As a result 25 million children are obese, which is 33 percent of all children.

The Safe Routes To School program was established in 2005, to get children moving again. Safe Routes To School focuses on 5 Es: Evaluation, Education, Encouragement, Engineering and Enforcement. Princeton School District received a SRTS planning grant to begin evaluating our current conditions for biking and walking and educating the community. Some ideas that may come from this planning grant are: walking school buses, drop-off locations away from the school buildings, bike/walk days, yard signs to encourage walking, biking with safe driving, installing more bike racks, share the road signage and on-demand pedestrian signals.

Princeton is well suited for biking due to its flat wide streets. Drivers are generally respectful of walkers. SRTS gets people out of their cars and into the neighborhood. My own experience with biking for many of my errands, is for the sheer joy of it.

It is so freeing not to be confined to that steel and plastic box.

Our children deserve the fun, the freedom and joy of walking and biking. Not to be smothered in fat, but to be healthy and productive citizens. We must start when they are small, even before school.   SRTS is a good place to start.

Jane E. Odgers