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Bike Walk Education in Schools Act

When previously discussing pedestrian accidents, we noted that children have a high risk of injury. Illinois crash data shows nearly five children are hit by people driving every day in Illinois while walking or biking within one block of a school. However, previously, Illinois had no requirement to educate children on how to bike and walk safely.

In 2018, the legislature introduced the Bike Walk Education in Schools Act (HB4799). It required school boards statewide to adopt policies for educating K-8 students about biking and walking safety. Then they would review/update these policies every two years. Schools boards determine how best to implement the requirement in their schools. Walking and biking safely helps kids get more physical activity, reducing the risk of obesity and promoting good overall health.

Governor Rauner signed the bill at the end of August. The law takes effect July 1, 2018.

Why Should Children Walk or Bike to School?

As the school year begins, why should you walk with your children to school?

Over the last thirty years, childhood obesity has tripled in the U.S. and Illinois ranks ninth in the nation in obese adolescents ages 10 to 17. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and adolescents get one hour or more of physical activity each day. Research suggests that physically active kids are more likely to become healthy, physically active adults, underscoring the importance of developing the habit of regular physical activity early.

How to Safely Watch for Children

In 2009, 15,000 children pedestrians suffered injuries. In particular, laws like the Bike Walk Education inSchool Acts should increase safety. However, the rest of us need to help reduce the risk of injury by:

  • Learning safe walking and bicycling skills
  • Watch for others using the road while driving
  • Build safe paths to schools for children

For example, some of the best ways to increase the safety of a child’s walking or biking trip to school are to:

  • Provide safe, well-maintained walkways separate from vehicles
  • Teach children to cross streets at marked crossings
  • always look left-right-left.
  • Slow traffic in neighborhoods and near schools
  • Work with parents of children with disabilities and special education professionals to identify accessibility barriers
  • Ensure continuous and accessible walkways
  • Install curb ramps at every intersection and at mid-block crossings
  • Provide accessible pedestrian signals at intersections

R.F. Wittmeyer

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