Guest Column: Raising free range kids

Zachary Hilton, left

One of the best ways to attract more kids to walk and bike to school is through events at the schools, and then sending home material to the parents. The kids become the biggest advocates to letting them walk and bike more and especially to school.
Walk & Roll Wednesday’s will soon begin at all the schools. There is a Bike Fest planned at the Gilroy Library featuring the City of Gilroy’s first free fix-it bike station on Sept. 30, and Oct. 4 is International Walk to School Day. El Roble is planning its first Walk & Roll Wednesday for Oct. 4 and I will be leading one of the two bike trains to school.
We will be meeting at Uvas Park Drive and Third Street and making our way down Third Street with several stops at the intersections before we make it safely to El Roble Elementary.
All the schools will be asking Gilroy Police and Gilroy Fire to get involved with the walking school buses and bike trains. How cool would it be for the kids to get an escort to school?
The Safe Routes to School program is important for our youth today. More children and parents are getting out of the cars for walking, biking and rolling to school.
Just a simple mile of walking each way to school equals two thirds of the daily recommended 60 minutes of physical activity. When children access school this way they learn their streets, neighbors, and reduce the traffic congestion around schools.
Building a network of Safe Routes to School is something that the City of Gilroy Bicycle Pedestrian Commission Gilroy (BPAC) takes very serious and we advocate for it. Santa Clara County’s Measure B will provide funding annually to the City of Gilroy that is allocated for bicycle and pedestrian education. The Gilroy Police Department recently received a grant from the Office of Traffic Safety that includes education for bicycle and pedestrians.
Our schools are strategically located and planned for the neighborhoods. It makes a huge impact when advocates encourage developers and planners to put in the biking and pedestrian infrastructure. We should be able to freely get around the neighborhood while connecting to the current walk and bike network and schools and we are hoping that city staff present the Safe Routes to School along with transportation via car.
Santa Clara County Public Health, Gilroy BPAC and volunteers will be conducting walk and bike audits, which help prepare suggested Safe Routes to School maps for each school. This will be a great feature to hand out to the kids.
The Gilroy BPAC encourages you to nominate someone for our monthly award within Gilroy that strives to make Gilroy a better place in regards to biking and pedestrian activities. Come to one of our meetings on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at the City Council chambers, or email any of us.
The youth in our community will shape the future, but it’s up to us to show them the way. Like Mark Fenton has famously said “let’s create a community full of ‘free range children’”! If you are looking for ways to get involved then look to the schools that need parent volunteers and join a City of Gilroy Commission. The Parks & Recreation Commission will have two open seats at the end of the year and the Bicycle Pedestrian Commission will have one open seat.
Zachary Hilton is the chair of the Bicycle Pedestrian Commission.