On August 24, 2018, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Bike Walk Education in Schools Act (HB4799). Previously, the Illinois’ School Code required automobile safety education, but there wasn’t a requirement to include specific instruction on how to walk and bike safely. The amended code now requires that every Illinois public school provide instruction, study, and discussion of effective methods for prevention and avoidance of traffic injuries related to walking and bicycling.
Illinois crash data show nearly five children are hit by drivers every day while walking or biking within one block of a school. Ensuring that our children are safe walking and biking to school requires a combination of approaches: engineering strategies to improve the physical environment for walking and biking, enforcement strategies to reduce vehicle speeds and increase drivers’ yielding to pedestrians and cyclists, and safety skills development and education for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. The Bike Walk Education in Schools Act addresses the educational approach.
In addition, the law has the potential to encourage more families to walk and bike to school and home by making these options safer. More children walking and biking is good for their health as well as the health of our planet. Walking and biking helps kids get more physical activity, reducing the risk of obesity and promoting good overall health. Traveling to school by foot or bike decreases traffic congestion, reduces carbon emissions, and increases the overall livability of our city.
The new law, however, does not specify how school districts provide this instruction, offering flexibility in how they choose to comply with the amended code. The Active Transportation Alliance is preparing resources and asking individuals and/or organizations to work with their local school district on implementing it. Go Evanston has initiated a meeting with District 65 officials to begin discussion regarding how best to integrate the law’s requirements into the district’s existing curriculum and instruction.
We will keep you updated on our progress, and we hope to see comprehensive walk and bike safety instruction implemented in all District 65 elementary schools soon.
- Posted by Cecelia Wallin