With school bus transportation funding being cut at the district level and childhood obesity rates at an all-time high, the San Diego regional carpooling matching service for parents was expanded during the 2011-12 school year to include walking and biking to school. To promote the new effort to increase walking and biking, the SANDAG SchoolPool program launched a new campaign known as the Walk, Ride, and Roll to School campaign. This campaign included a challenge to see which schools could get the most K-12 students walking and biking to school. Whichever schools had the most participation had the chance to win up to $1,000.
Throughout the region, 22 schools representing nearly 15,000
students participated in the challenge. The three schools in San Diego that won the countywide Walk, Ride, and Roll to School Challenge had the most students walking and biking to school throughout October 2011. The grand prize winner, Chollas-Mead Elementary, received $1,000 in classroom supplies. The second place winner, Knox Middle School, received $750 in supplies, and the third place winner, Horton Elementary, $500 in supplies.
The Walk, Ride, and Roll to School Campaign launched on October 5, 2011 in celebration of International Walk to School Day. More than 5,600 local students participated in the kickoff event. The purpose of the campaign was to raise awareness of the health and environmental benefits of walking and biking to school, while also highlighting the importance of pedestrian and bicycle safety. It was sponsored by the SANDAG SchoolPool program, which helps parents connect with one another to organize carpools, as well as walking and biking to school groups.
"An initiative like this motivated us to get kids out walking and biking to school while also helping to fight childhood obesity in our communities," Chollas-Mead Principal Julia Bridi-Freel said.
To win the challenge, students logged their walk and bike trips through the online SchoolPool system. Overall, participants logged a total of 15,674 miles during October, the equivalent of walking across the United States approximately five times. Grand prize winner, Chollas-Mead, logged 4,642 walk or bike trips; second place winner, Knox Middle, logged 2,990 trips; and third place winner, Horton, logged 2,901 trips.
“We are going to use the prize money we won to incentivize those students that continue to walk and bike to school throughout the year,” Horton Elementary Principal Robin McCulloch said. “We want to keep as many kids walking and biking to school as possible.”
All participating schools were also eligible to receive free bike and pedestrian safety courses. In addition, the SchoolPool program distributed free safety gear, such as helmets, reflective backpacks, and safety vests, to children who walked or biked to school as part of the campaign.
"My son enjoyed walking to school and the campaign made it fun because it was like a competition,” Chollas-Mead parent Margarita De Alba said. “Now my son and I walk to school every day and we enjoy it."
By Goldin Ortiz, SANDAG SchoolPool Program Manager