It wasn’t uphill both ways in the snow, but it was a start.
Scores of students from McKinley Elementary School traveled to campus using alternative modes of transportation earlier this month, whether on foot, two wheels, three wheels or public transit.
They were taking part in the Bike It Walk It program, a citywide challenge that promotes environmental sustainability while encouraging physical fitness and improving community bonds.
“We had the event for three days, and every day we were having more and more participants,” said Stephan Corbel, co-chair of McKinley’s sustainability and beautification committee.
With the highest rate of participation among all the participating Santa Monica schools, the mid-city school received a $250 award from the City of Santa Monica and was honored by Mayor Kevin McKeown during the Santa Monica Festival at Clover Park earlier this month.
The Bike It Walk It program was started by the Samohi Solar Alliance in 2007. It is now a linchpin of the Safe Routes to School initiative, which city officials created to make walking and biking to school “a customary part of everyday life.”
The initiative aims to help families establish fitness habits and educate students about pedestrian and cycling rules while reducing traffic congestion and vehicle emissions.
In 2012-13, the initiative’s first year, the city partnered with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and other organizations to organize bike safety trainings and outreach efforts. Last year, Safe Routes to School organizers hosted Kidical Mass bike rides and worked to create a strategic plan.
This year the program was expanded throughout Santa Monica on May 4-8, and McKinley Elementary took a leading role.
“Their parent volunteer coordinators went the extra mile,” said Cory Keen, the city’s Safe Routes to School coordinator.
On one of the school’s three Bike It Walk It days, principal Susan Yakich rode her bike while leading students on a half-mile parade from Arizona Avenue and 17th Street to campus.
Students who got to McKinley by non-car means were invited through what Corbel called a temporary “Arc de Triomphe,” a tent where they checked in with volunteers and received small prizes.
The recognition “had a huge positive impact on their daily motivation,” he said.
McKinley posted the highest level of participation in the district (82 percent), while Edison Language Academy (66 percent) had a strong showing after logging just 23-percent participation last fall.
“One Edison family even rode all the way from Inglewood,” Keen said.
Other participating schools included Franklin Elementary School (57 percent), Lincoln Middle School (49), Will Rogers Learning Community (46), John Muir Elementary School and Santa Monica Alternative School House (46), Grant Elementary School (41), Roosevelt Elementary School (39) and John Adams Middle School (25).
Thanks to the success of the Bike It Walk It campaign, organizers at McKinley are now hoping to expand their efforts with car-free Fridays throughout the 2015-16 school year. Kids will be offered rewards to walk, bike, skate, scoot or take the bus to school.
“It will reduce the carbon footprint of every student in the city and, at the same time, improve the community spirit by living together and respecting our environment in our daily behavior,” Corbel said.
For more information about Safe Routes to School, visit santamonicasaferoutes.org or contact Cory Keen at email@example.com.
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.