Bike It! Walk It! week returns to Santa Monica schools today and all eyes are on the Golden Sneaker award that will recognize the school that has the highest percentage of students walk, bike, scooter or take public transportation.

The mission is to cut down on emissions in town and 64% of Santa Monica’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from driving, which makes parents of local schools believe it is important to teach the next generations about being more sustainable.

“It’s great to start with our kids because they’re the one that’s going to be carrying the torch and they’re the one that’s going to make the change,” said parent Sunny Wang. “It’s hard to change, I would say, adults, and how we go about them. But if you start young, I think it’s key to have them understand there’s alternative modes of transportation, and why this is important for the environment.”

The event has been around for over 10 years and was actually started by the Samohi Solar Alliance in 2007. They really wanted to get their peers excited about biking, walking and taking public transportation to get to school.

After Covid-related delays last year and staff reductions at the city/school level, the week is now a parent-led initiative but it’s getting support from the school district’s sustainability coordinator too.

Four parents formed the committee to keep the event around, and Wang led the charge. His son just started Kindergarten so the timing lined up for him to take on the responsibility.

“My wife and I either walk, scooter, or ride our bikes with our son each day to McKinley and we enjoy watching how much fun he has with it as well as having the opportunity to teach him how to be safe while walking, biking, or scootering to school,” he said.

While parents scrambled to keep the event alive, the hardest part was understanding what the quickly formed committee could and could not do.

“Given that all the parents on the planning committee for the McKinley Bike It Walk It Event are new parents to the school, I think the biggest challenge is understanding what the ground rules are in organizing the event, such as who do we need to coordinate with or get approvals from, and more importantly, making sure we follow covid safety protocols,” Wang said.

Business entities that donated to support the event included Specialized Santa Monica and the City of Santa Monica (Department of Public Works – Water Resources Division and – Office of Sustainability and the Environment).

“We appreciate our partnership with the City of Santa Monica and the shared goals of encouraging physical activity, community togetherness, and promotion of safety in our neighborhoods and near schools,” Superintendent Ben Drati said. “Biking, walking, and busing to school also teaches our students to be good stewards of our environment by reducing vehicle use. We appreciate the friendly competition between our schools for the coveted Golden Sneaker award each year.”

The following Santa Monica schools are participating: Lincoln Middle School, Will Rogers Learning Community, Santa Monica Alternative School House, John Muir Elementary, McKinley Elementary, Grant Elementary, Edison Language Academy and Franklin Elementary.