As the sun rose Wednesday morning, Carrboro Elementary School students and their families gathered at Wilson Park on foot, bike, tricycle and rollerblades.
The group walked, biked and rolled to school together in light of October 12 Walk & Roll to School Day, as proclaimed by Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils.
The day is an initiative of the National Center for Safe Routes to School and encourages students to travel to school by modes of transportation other than cars. Carrboro is one of many participating cities across the country.
The day is also designed to promote healthy habits, a clean environment and community safety.
“Cars can pollute a lot, and that’s definitely not good,” Anna Stromberg, a fourth-grader at CES, said.
Stromberg said she usually took the bus, but on Walk & Roll to School Day, she sped to school on her inline skates.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions – it accounts for 27% of total emissions.
“If we walk or bike to school, there won’t be as much pollution,” said Millie Gilstrap, a second-grader at CES.
Gilstrap said she was walking to school for the initiative.
Seils said Carboro has been at the day for many years.
“It meets our environmental goals by reducing traffic at school, it teaches children how to be safe – to get around the community in a way that doesn’t involve riding in a car,” Seils said.
Stephen Heiny, a research associate at UNC’s Road Safety Research Center (HSRC), said the HSRC is working with Safe Routes to School to track and promote alternative modes of transportation.
Heiny said attention to foot and bicycle traffic on days such as Walk & Roll to School Day can lead to policy changes in schools and communities.
For example, schools may be keen to implement new bike racks, change drop-off patterns, or renovate sidewalks once more as children commute to school on wheels and on foot, a- he added.
“He’s really trying to encourage that habit of getting out of the car and trying to get to school in other active ways,” Heiny said.
Heiny said having elected officials participate in these types of events allows decision makers to see what is possible in the community and what improvements need to be made.
Seils and Mayor Pro Tempore Susan Romaine attended the event at Wilson Park on Wednesday morning and walked with the students and their families to CES.
Seils also said he recognizes that policy makers are responsible for ensuring travel to school is safe, including having appropriate cycling and walking infrastructure.
Susan Murray, a first-grade teacher at CES, said she bikes to school almost every day.
“Commuting, whether it’s on a bike or otherwise, is really about working on a system or a pattern in your family, so you can establish the habit,” Murray said.
Heiny said the Walk & Roll to School day was designed to encourage lasting habits, so students will continue to use other methods of transportation beyond the day.
“You want kids to walk, cycle to school, very young, that’s the kind of thing they maintain throughout their lives, whether it’s walking to work, taking the bus or whatever,” Seils said. “Starting now is really important.”
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