Cómo nos llevan los niños hacia comunidades más sanas - Walk21

Cómo nos llevan los niños hacia comunidades más sanas y seguras.
Children leading the way to safer, healthier communities.
Lauren Marchetti (1) y Robert Smith (2)
(1) Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, USA
(2) Dorset County Council, Dorchester, England
Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center
UNC Highway Safety Research Center
730 Airport Road
CB #3430
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-3430 USA
Resumen / Abstract
La capacidad de los niños para ir caminando o en bicicleta a la escuela es un indicador de lo amiga
que es una comunidad de la movilidad a pie y en bicicleta. El año pasado, 21 países y 3,25
millones de niños y adultos participaron en el Día Internacional Caminando a la Escuela. Muchas
comunidades han lanzado programas a largo plazo para obtener mejoras importantes. Los
objetivos primarios se centran en proporcionar más seguridad a la movilidad a pie y en incrementar
el volumen de ésta, que se produce tanto en el transporte como en la actividad física. Las listas de
comprobación sobre los desplazamientos a pie y en bicicleta proporcionan a las comunidades
herramientas y recursos para identificar problemas y posibles soluciones. G.B. dispone del
programa actual más antiguo sobre caminando a la escuela, en el que participaron 12.000
escuelas en el año 2001. EE.UU. tiene menos programas (aproximadamente, 600 programas en
49 de 50 estados en 2001). Los programas EE.UU. están caracterizados por la diversidad del
liderazgo y los objetivos localizados. El éxito en ambos países ha experimentado un aumento
considerable respecto al número de participantes y a la transformación de las iniciativas en
programas a largo plazo. En la actualidad, muchos programas están llegando a la madurez
necesaria para plantearse cuestiones importantes.
Cómo nos llevan los niños hacia comunidades más sanas y seguras.
Children leading the way to safer, healthier communities.
Lauren Marchetti and Robert Smith
Ponencia / Paper
Communities across the world are using a child’s ability to walk to school as a starting point for
examining how safe and secure their communities are for all people on foot. Last year more than
3.25 million walkers in 21 countries participated in International Walk to School Day on October 2nd.
The concept behind the day is for parents, children and community leaders to walk to school
together with their eyes open--to celebrate the good things about the walk to school and to identify
the impediments to walking and ways to fix them. Events ranged from the launch of a single
"walking bus" route with perhaps 10 participants, to an organized walk involving up to 1,500
children, parents, teachers and community leaders. Children and adults use walkability checklists to
identify specific problems and solutions. For many communities, the day is an anchor event for
long-term programs to increase safe walking. Using different names and missions, communities
work for and get new sidewalks, additional crossing guards, physical activity programs, reduced
speeds around schools, among other things. What is behind this widespread interest in the walk to
school and how are communities turning this into a movement for change? This paper examines
the perspectives of Great Britain and the United States, the two countries who joined Canada in
founding International Walk to School Day.
Background on Walk to School Programs
The first International Walk To School Day occurred in 2000 as a outgrowth of successful national
events which had been held in the UK since 1994, and in Canada and the USA since 1997.
Realising the advantages of working together, the individual country co-ordinators joined forces to
create a global event promoting the importance of walking children to school. Not only does it raise
worldwide awareness of child pedestrian issues, it provides a vast accessible network for the
exchange of ideas and information among the participating countries.
The actual day is the focus for raising global awareness but the initiative is year round. Coordinators in each community may choose to focus on a particular theme for their events, such as
increasing health and physical activity, lessening pollution and congestion, learning safe pedestrian
skills, highlighting inadequate pedestrian facilities or simply creating a stronger sense of community.
Whatever the theme, everyone walks with one guiding principle - healthy people make healthy
An International web site, www.iwalktoschool.org, links all the co-ordinators, promotes and
publicises the event, shares best practice and supports other global initiatives like Car Free Day.
The web site facilitates the exchange of ideas, information and best practice and creates
networking opportunities which would not otherwise have been possible. Multi-lingual translation of
the site has encouraged more countries to participate. The regular use of teleconference facilities
has enabled the working group to develop new ideas and methodologies, quickly and effectively.
Sharing of downloadable free resources has enabled even small community groups to participate in
a global initiative.
Pilot projects are numerous. Walking buses are one innovation which has been mirrored worldwide.
Children walk to school in supervised groups picking up pedestrians along the way, in order to
reduce unnecessary car use. Schools get together in citywide collaborations to walk en masse to or
from a central location. In recent years schools have been paired up with those in other countries
and communicate via e-mail.
The program is aimed at all parents of school-aged children, including those who already walk.
Children who are driven can be dropped off at a central point and then walk to school in groups for
Cómo nos llevan los niños hacia comunidades más sanas y seguras.
Children leading the way to safer, healthier communities.
Lauren Marchetti y Robert Smith
the last part of the journey. Those who are unable to walk all the way to school are encouraged to
walk around school playing fields as if they had walked to school. Families who regularly drive to
school but live within reasonable walking distance and have adequate walking facilities are the main
target group, however, school administrators, teachers, police, transportation officials and civic
officials are all involved. One of the main goals is to raise awareness to all of the importance of
walking and biking to school and to create safe and convenient ways to travel to school actively.
Evaluations from country coordinators suggest big decreases in car use on the school run during
and after the events. Awareness of the initiative is reported as particularly high amongst parents,
pupils and community leaders. Regular monitoring of travel mode patterns reveal both a slowing
down of the increase in car use and an increase in walking and cycling rates at schools where the
project has been running for several years (Dorset County Council 2001).
United Kingdom Experience
For many parents, the car is becoming the main means of transporting their children to and from
school. The proportion of journeys to school made by car in the UK for example, has almost
doubled in 12 years and continues to rise. The causes are complex and inter-related. Rising levels
of car ownership, more job opportunities for mothers with young children and a wider choice of
schools are just some of the social factors. Combining journeys to work with the school run,
inclement weather and time pressures with siblings at different schools, can be headed under the
convenience and comfort factor. Increased fears about personal safety and increased traffic
volumes cause road safety concerns and inadequate public transport provision and poor pedestrian
and cyclist facilities in some areas also compound the problem. Parents naturally want to protect
their children and their safety worries lead them to assume that the car is safer than walking. More
cars mean more traffic congestion so fewer children are allowed to walk. A vicious circle then
ensues. Local air quality, journey times and the competitiveness of local business all deteriorate.
Children have even less opportunity to develop vital road skills under parental supervision and
reduced levels of daily physical activity impact on their general health and well-being. Children will
build up car dependency habits at a very early age, which will then be very difficult to change as
they become independent young adults.
Surveys suggest that most young children who are driven to school would prefer to walk or cycle
instead (Dorset County Council 2001). It is, however, parents who generally make the final decision
on how their young children get to school. In order for parents to consider walking as a viable form
of transport it is vital that they are made aware of the positive benefits. It is this overarching aim to
promote walking to school as an environmentally friendly, viable, safe, free, healthy alternative to
the car, which underpins the Walk to School campaign.
Local authorities have been promoting Walk To School events in the UK since 1994.The aim is to
encourage driving parents to experience the benefits of accompanying their children to and from
school on foot on a regular basis. It is not anti-car. It aims to promote walking as a realistic
alternative to it.
The "campaign" in the UK is organised and promoted jointly by the National Travelwise Association
and The Pedestrians Association. Dorset County Council created a National Walk to School web
site in 1999 in order to share experiences and ideas and promote best practice.
Many events included famous sporting personalities as well as Chief Police Officers, Mayors and
other civic dignitaries. Many events reported big increases in the numbers of walkers with some
having 100% of the total school population taking part. Short-term evaluation suggests this increase
in modal shift tails off after a few weeks, which is why the UK in particular, now organises both a
Summer Walk To School Week and an Autumn Walk To School Week as well as supporting the
International Day. There are proposals for a spring event as well. The International event is used as
a key launchpad for other longer-term initiatives, especially safer routes to school projects.
Cómo nos llevan los niños hacia comunidades más sanas y seguras.
Children leading the way to safer, healthier communities.
Lauren Marchetti and Robert Smith
Sponsors have been quick to recognise the event's positive appeal, and with its extensive media
coverage, are queuing up to support both local and national events. Public perception of the
campaign is very positive and non-threatening. The carrots seem to outweigh the sticks - at least for
the moment! Feedback also suggests that involving local decision makers in the events can have
positive financial benefits in the form of additional funding for physical safer routes to school
Some lessons learned after 7 years of promoting walking to school:
§ Recognise the efforts being made at a local level and promote their successes to a global
§ Use the walking to school theme to focus on a wider range of issues, enabling even the
smallest community to feel they can make a difference.
§ Encourage schools to develop community supported School Travel Plans which focus on
sustainable transport issues at a local level and set realistic, achievable targets for travel
mode change.
§ Acknowledge the efforts of those who are already walking. Go for the "win-win" approach
first - start with lots of incentives. Even a modicum of success can be used as a firm
foundation for longer-term change.
§ Build in effective evaluation from the start.
§ Promote and publicise the successes.
§ Use the internet to widen the exposure of the initiative and to draw in new partners. Share
best practice.
§ Make global publicity and promotional materials available for local customisation.
§ Be realistic with what can be achieved in both the long and short term.
§ Regular drip-feeding of the messages is better than one-off flash events.
§ Get local leaderships, planners, engineers and the local community as a whole to value
§ Build on the successes of others, in partnership with them.
§ Collaborate - don't compete.
United States experience
The reasons for the increase in interest in walk to school programs in the United States are similar
to those of the United Kingdom--the health of our children and our communities. In the United
States, physical inactivity is one of our nation's greatest health threats. There is particular concern
that youth in the US are developing sedentary habits that will persist into adulthood and accelerate
the already dangerous rise in obesity and diabetes (National Center for Health Statistics 2002;
Rosenbloom et al 1999).
Regular walking is an enjoyable, accessible and inexpensive activity for youngsters of practically
any age and ability. Yet in the US our roadways are being designed to accommodate more and
more cars, often unintentionally at the expense of walking. The dramatic increase in the use of
automobiles to chauffeur children has led to a box mentality. Children go from the box of the house
to the box of the car to the box of the school and back with little opportunity for independent
movement. Walking to school appears to be an under-utilized opportunity with great potential for
increasing routine physical activity among children. (Tudor-Locke et al 2001) Others suggest that
children are beset by a "siege" mentality (Hillman 1999). This is likely due to the real and perceived
threats to children walking and bicycling alone. One out of every seven people killed in traffic
crashes in the United States is a pedestrian or bicyclist. Approximately 5,000 pedestrians a year are
Cómo nos llevan los niños hacia comunidades más sanas y seguras.
Children leading the way to safer, healthier communities.
Lauren Marchetti y Robert Smith
killed and another 80,000 are injured (US DOT 2001). However, at the same time over 250,000
deaths are related to physical inactivity (CDC 1996). We have been building a transportation world
in which caregivers have to balance the short-term risks of injury as pedestrians against the longterm risks of sedentary lifestyles.
A grass roots movement has begun in the US to change communities and it uses the walk to school
as a coalescing force. Communities have cited walk to school as part of what became major
initiatives to secure transportation funding, to change where schools are located, to create and to
enforce codes to require sidewalks. Participation in the US tends to be at three levels of activity. At
the beginning level are communities who conduct one-day Walk to School Events but go no further.
The events often draw much media attention to walking issues and bring community leaders
together but do not attempt to identify and change problems.
At the second level, communities become involved in long-term programs with specific goals. These
include promoting safety by teaching children the skills to walk safely; identifying safe routes to
school; fighting the obesity epidemic by encouraging physical activity through walking; raising
awareness of how walkable a community is and identifying improvements to make; and reducing
traffic congestion and speeds, particularly around schools.
At the third level are communites who are ready to make permanent change and "institutionalize"
walking, by incorporating it into civic culture, decision-making and the personal habits of citizens.
Safe Routes to School programs are gaining support in the United States and are an excellent
example of this type of change. Neighborhood groups, engineers and planners, community leaders
and, in many cases, state transportation departments are working together to provide safe routes to
Examples of community accomplishments include:
§ In New London, Connecticut, a city Traffic Safety Committee was formed after Walk to
School Day.
§ Walk to School organizers in Ocala, Florida built a pedestrian obstacle course and asked
children to demonstrate the safest response to each hazard as they walked to school.
§ Houston, Texas used Walk to School Day to kick off the Children's Safety Zone, an area in
an urban, Spanish-speaking district that will receive intense educational effort about
pedestrian safety for two years.
§ In Madison, Wisconsin, the SAFE KIDS coalition worked with local traffic officers to get
speed boards posted around schools. For the entire week of the event, officers ticketed
school zone speeders.
§ Students in Tecumseh, Nebraska, started a six-week walking program with a goal of
walking the equivalent of walking to the 2002 Winter Olympics (931 miles).
§ In Gilbert, South Carolina, children did not live close enough to walk to school, so
organizers promoted walking around the school and in the community.
§ In the village of Kailua, Hawaii, students, who had previously had to travel a circuitous 8
mile route along congested roadways to get to school, received a new pedestrian route, a
path the links four schools and several neighborhoods.
§ After the mayor of Nashville, Tennessee participated in Walk to School Day; he designated
several million dollars for new sidewalks around schools.
§ Oakland, California translated walkability checklists into several languages and used survey
results to determine where to fix sidewalks and hire more crossing guards.
§ City officials in Hyrum, Utah used walkability checklist results to prioritize how money from a
state pedestrian facility improvement grant was used.
In the United States, who champions the event/program varies greatly from community to
community and this self-selection process is a strength of the program. The leadership role is not
Cómo nos llevan los niños hacia comunidades más sanas y seguras.
Children leading the way to safer, healthier communities.
Lauren Marchetti and Robert Smith
determined by the positions people hold but rather the commitment they have for the issues. Events
are led by mayors, city council members, police and fire departments, hospitals, health
departments, SAFE KIDS coalitions, elementary school teachers, physical education teachers,
school principals, parent-teacher organizations, bicycle coalitions, fitness councils, and even
college students.
Just as leadership is individual to the community so is the mission behind the walk. Improving safety
and increasing physical activity are the missions most often cited by coordinators. However, the
specific goals within those missions vary greatly. Safety may mean everything from teaching
pedestrian skills to children to an enforcement program to slow drivers around schools and in
Walking checklists
A common element in many programs is the use of checklists to identify community problems.
Several years ago, the United States Department of Transportation funded the University of North
Carolina Highway Safety Research Center to develop an assessment tool for communities to use to
determine how safe and easy it is to take a walk with a child. A panel of experts on safety, access,
health and environmental issues determined the components of the tool.
A checklist was designed to enable a parent or other adult to determine the quality of the overall
walk and to single out specific problems such as inadequate facilities, poor behavior by motorists or
environmental impediments. The tool includes short and long-term actions for the problems
identified. Many communities have used the checklists as part of walk to school programs. By
including local government leaders, children, parents and the media in the walks, the events were
able to both assess the problems and to initiate the process for creating change.
The walking checklist asks the users to identify a destination for walking. Often the checklist is used
as part of walk to school day and the school is the destination selected. Along the walk, the user is
prompted to address five questions:
§ Did you have room to walk?
This question addresses whether there were sidewalks or paths and were they in disrepair
or blocked.
§ Was it easy to cross streets?
For this question the user is asked to observe intersections. Was the road too wide, did
traffic signals not give enough time, were there no signals?
§ Did drivers behave well?
Behaviors to watch for include backing out of driveways without looking, not yielding to
pedestrians, and driving too fast.
§ Was it easy to follow safety rules?
For this question the users are asked to observe their own behaviors. Did they cross at
crosswalks, walk facing traffic, cross with the light?
§ Was your walk pleasant?
This question recognizes the importance of a route being inviting to a walker. Were there
pleasant things like trees, flowers, good lighting or unpleasant things like trash, scary dogs,
or the general feeling of being unsafe?
Each question covers a facet of what makes an area walkable. Each question gets a score from 1
to 6, with 1 being awful and 6 being excellent. Then the scores for all 5 questions are added
together to get an overall score. For high scores, 26 to 30, the checklist suggests that the users
celebrate because they have great places for walking. This is important because often places that
Cómo nos llevan los niños hacia comunidades más sanas y seguras.
Children leading the way to safer, healthier communities.
Lauren Marchetti y Robert Smith
are great for walking go unnoticed and underused. If a route gets a low score, then the individual
question scores allows the user to better identify the problem. For example, if question 3, did drivers
behave well, had a low score, then the user would be directed to two tiers of recommendations.
One tier is for short-term suggestions such as asking the police department to conduct enforcement
programs. The other tier is for initiatives that take more time such as the placement of traffic
calming devices along the roads where drivers are speeding.
One of the issues the checklist helps to address is poor communication that sometimes occurs
between the citizen advocate and the transportation engineer. Checklist users are encouraged to
contact the community officials who deal with the specific problems. They are reminded to present
the problem not a solution. For example, suppose someone does not identify the problem but rather
asks for a solution such as four-way stop signs. The issue becomes stop signs when actually there
may be other more promising treatments to try.
The checklist is being incorporated into an on-line information system at the web site
www.walkinginfo.org. The system will automatically tally the results and provide the user a menu of
resources including background information on the issue and potential solutions, studies and
illustrative photographic images pulled from a visual library.
Bicycling checklist
A bicycling checklist was developed in 2001 to serve as a companion tool to the walkability
checklist. This tool enables cyclists to assess conditions encountered, such as roadway, path and
intersection features, traffic threats and environmental factors, and provides immediate and longterm actions similar to the walkability checklist.
The bicycling checklist prompts the user to answer seven questions:
§ Did you have a place to bicycle safely?
This question divided into two situations: bicycling on the road and sharing space with
motor vehicles and bicycling on an off-road path or trail where motor vehicles are not
§ How was the surface you rode on?
Here the checklist user observes for potholes, dangerous drain grates or other surface
problems that could cause a cyclist to lose balance.
§ How were the intersections you rode through?
This question addresses whether the signal changes for a bicycle and whether there is a
safe route through the intersection for a bicyclist.
§ Did drivers behave well?
The checklist user is asked to notice such things as whether vehicles travel too fast and did
they cut the cyclist off or pass the cyclist too closely.
§ Was it easy to use your bike?
This question is about secure places to leave a bike, the ability to take a bike on mass
transit and other convenience factors.
§ What did you do to make your ride safer?
This question asks the cyclist to evaluate his/her own behavior regarding using safety
equipment and following the rules of the road.
§ Tell us about yourself.
The skill level of the cyclist affects the way he/she will evaluate some of the previous
questions and needs to be taken into consideration
Cómo nos llevan los niños hacia comunidades más sanas y seguras.
Children leading the way to safer, healthier communities.
Lauren Marchetti and Robert Smith
In both the UK and the USA, walk to school initiatives have grown dramatically in size. Having
started in the UK with just a few hundred children in a handful of schools as a pilot project in 1994,
more than 12,000 schools participated in the UK in 2001. In the USA, two schools walked in 1997
and by 2001, 600,000 walkers in 49 of the 50 states participated.
Other measures of success should be based on outcomes including long-term behavioral changes
by pedestrians and motorists and environmental improvements, such as increased installation of
sidewalks and safer street crossings. Questions to answer include: What percentage of events
become long-term programs; are they accomplishing their goals; are places becoming safer for
walking and are more people walking? The ultimate outcome measure for success of the program
would be the increase in the number of children walking to school (and walking trips by all
pedestrians) and a reduction in pedestrian crashes and injuries as a result of the creation of safer
walking environments.
In the United States, programs have just begun to reach the maturity to allow for such evaluation.
We do know of exceptional efforts, such as the work in California that has culminated in the
passage of a law that earmarks transportation funding for improving routes to school
(www.baypeds.org/saferoutes.html). Are programs creating safer environments? Yes, but we just
do not know to what extent yet. Are more children and others walking? That needs to be carefully
studied. In the United States better exposure data for walking is needed so that evaluations can be
conducted to identify if children who participate in these programs are increasing their walking to
school. And if so, is this activity increasing their physical activity levels or is it a substitute for
another form of activity, such as after school play with friends? It is important that the energy and
enthusiasm communities are expending for these initiatives be given direction that is based on
scientific evaluation.
The future
The International Walk to School committee will continue to work in partnership to provide a vast
accessible network for the exchange of ideas and information. It will continue to draw the attention
of public decision-makers and the media to sustainable transport issues and to widen community
involvement in order to foster positive long-term change. Today's children are tomorrow's decision
makers. Today's child car passengers are tomorrow's car drivers.
Smith, R. 2001. Travel mode surveys 1999-2001. Dorchester: Dorset County Council.
National Center for Health Statistics 2002. Prevalence of overweight among children and
adolescents: United States, 1999. Hyattsville: NCHS.
Rosenbloom, AL; Joe, JR; Young, RS; Winter, WE. 1999. Emerging epidemic of type 2 diabetes in
youth. Diabetes care, 22, 345-354.
Tudor-Locke, C; Ainsworth, BE;Popkin, BM. 2001. Active commuting to school; an overlooked
source of children's physical activity? Sports medicine, 31 (5), 309-313.
Hillman, M. 1999. The impact of transport policy on children's development. In: Canterbury Safe
Routes to Schools Seminar, Christ Church 29 May 1999.
US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2001. Traffic
Safety Facts 2000. Washington, DC: NHTSA.
US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1996)
Physical activity and health: a report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: CDC.
Cómo nos llevan los niños hacia comunidades más sanas y seguras.
Children leading the way to safer, healthier communities.
Lauren Marchetti y Robert Smith
Lauren Marchetti es subdirectora del Centro de Información para Peatones y Ciclistas del Centro
de Investigaciones sobre Seguridad Vial de la Universidad de Carolina del Norte. Su trabajo se ha
centrado en el diseño y la evaluación de programas destinados a reducir las lesiones y los
fallecimientos relacionados con los vehículos de motor, incluida la disuasión de la conducción bajo
los efectos del alcohol y el aumento de la utilización de los cinturones de seguridad y los asientos
de seguridad para niños. Gran parte de su trabajo reciente se ha centrado en conjuntar a las
comunidades sanitaria y de seguridad para fomentar una movilidad a pie segura. Es miembro
fundador de Walkable America; organizadora del Día Caminando a la Escuela en los EE.UU. y ha
colaborado en la creación del primer Día Internacional Caminando a la Escuela.
Robert Smith en la actualidad, Robert Smith es Director de Educación sobre Seguridad Vial,
Formación y Publicidad en el Ayuntamiento del Condado de Dorset del Sudoeste de Inglaterra.
Anteriormente, fue profesor de enseñanza primaria y dedicó gran parte de los últimos 10 años a la
promoción de iniciativas sostenibles para los desplazamientos escolares a nivel local, nacional e
Colabora en el proyecto nacional de G.B. Caminando a la Escuela desde 1995 y es miembro del
grupo de trabajo que coordina la campaña en G.B. Creó la página web nacional Caminando a la
Escuela y propuso la idea de un evento internacional Caminando a la Escuela, que se puso en
marcha en el año 2000. Actualmente, preside el Grupo de Trabajo Internacional Caminando a la
Escuela, compuesto por activistas medioambientales, de educación, seguridad, salud y transporte
de diversos países.
Es autor de varios recursos educativos que vinculan los temas de transporte sostenible al plan de
estudios escolar.
Lauren Marchetti is the deputy director for the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center of the
University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center. Her work has focused on designing
and evaluating programs to reduce motor-vehicle-related deaths and injuries, including deterring
drinking driving and increasing child safety seat and seat belt use. Much of her recent work has
focused on bringing the health and safety communities together to promote safe walking. She is a
founding member of the Partnership for a Walkable America; an organizer of Walk to School Day in
the US, and helped launch the first International Walk to School Day.
Robert Smith is currently the Head of Road Safety Education, Training and Publicity at Dorset
County Council in South West England. He is a former primary school teacher who has spent much
of the past 10 years promoting sustainable school travel initiatives at local, national and
international level.
He has been involved in the UK's National Walk To School project since 1995 and is a member of
the working group which co-ordinates the campaign in the UK. He created the National Walk To
School website and proposed the idea of an International Walk To School event, which was
launched in 2000. He currently chairs the International Walk To School Working Group, which
comprises transport, health, safety, education and environmental activists from several countries.
He is the author of several teaching resources linking sustainable transport issues into the school