Vision Zero for Youth cities celebrate International Walk to School Day
The capitals of US and Mexico celebrated International Walk to School Day, as the first to sign on to Vision Zero for Youth, and the first in an emerging economy, respectively. Together, they are building momentum towards their Vision Zero for Youth goal of eradicating child road traffic fatalities. While hundreds of thousands participated in Walk to School Day events across the US, Mexico City proudly celebrated its first one.
In the US, hundreds of thousands of students, parents, school officials, and local leaders across over 5,000 schools gathered to celebrate the 22nd annual Walk to School Day. In the capital, children from 17 schools chanted ‘This is my street!’ demanding safe and healthy journeys to school.
The chants were echoed in Mexico City, which held its first event. “Esta Es Mi Calle!” shouted high school and preschool kids from three schools. Every day, they walk along a dangerous street, where people often drive over the 20 km/h limit recommended around school areas. On Walk to School Day, students, parents, and school officials drew attention to the street’s lack of safe infrastructure, exacerbated by unsafe driving behavior.
“Together, we are asking our government to implement safe designs around schools, to save our children. Already, over 50% of students who walk or cycle to school are at serious risk of being hit in this area. Walk to School Day helps the public understand that these safe designs exist, and that they have a right to demand them.” said Gonzalo Peón Carballo, Deputy Director of ITDP Mexico. “In Mexico, road traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 9 and the second for those between 10 and 19. Most kids walk to school with grandparents, making this an opportunity to protect two vulnerable populations.”
As part of the event, Bernardo Baranda, ITDP’s Latin America Director presented Vision Zero for Youth at the René Cassin High School. He said, “This event is not just about today. Expanding Vision Zero for Youth, we are launching a pilot project in five schools across Mexico City, bringing together school authorities, the Mayor, and the government, to make journeys to school safer. This interim step of reducing child road traffic fatalities by at least 10% in pilot areas will help reach our goal of zero fatalities.” Mexico City’s Mayor José Ramón Amieva Gálvez has signed on to Vision Zero for Youth, an initiative that incumbent Claudia Sheinbaum is expected to continue.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser launched the global initiative in 2016. “Cities, national, and international organizations are embracing Vision Zero for Youth because it is an achievable and apolitical step to reach the larger goal of Vision Zero. Celebrating Walk to School Day reminds us and our kids that we have a right to the safe and healthy streets we need to reach that goal. Walking doesn’t just improve our health through increased physical activity. One more person in a car means one less person contributing to air pollution. Given the latest report from the UN showing that we are running out of time to curtail the deathly effects of climate change, we need all the help we can get. Walking and cycling instead of driving are a significant part of that solution.” said Natalie Draisin, North American Director and UN Representative at the FIA Foundation.
“The inspiration continues well beyond Walk to School Day, as the one-day event can increase the number of students who walk or bike to school long after the day of the event. More than half of surveyed event organizers state that these events lead to permanent changes in their communities. This holds promise for improving safety and transportation options for everyone,” said Nancy Pullen-Seufert, Director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School, the Child Health Initiative partner that organizes the event. At Walk to School Day in Washington, DC, she and over 250 students were joined by: DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton; DC Council Member Charles Allen; leaders from DC’s Department of Transportation and Department of Energy; Federal Highway Administration; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Governors Highway Safety Association; America Walks; National Organizations for Youth Safety; Family Career, and Community Leaders of America, and others. The Capitol Hill Public School Parents Association continues to play a leading role in bringing the event, and the community together.
In the US, the number of Walk to School Day events is expected to grow throughout October, Walk to School month. To learn more about the events and locations of registered U.S. schools participating in Walk to School Day 2018, visit walktoschool.org/register.