Story and photos by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News
Ann Arbor Police Department Community Engagement Officer Doug Martell parked his car near Thurston Elementary Wednesday morning, then pulled his bike out and rode to school with the kids.
“I patted ‘em on the back for wearing their helmets, reminded them to obey the traffic laws and to watch when they’re riding on the sidewalk to watch for a car backing out of a driveway,” he said.
Across the district, schools today celebrated International Walk to School Day, which builds awareness for the need for safe walkable—and bikeable—communities.
Thurston’s event began with an all-school assembly attended by parents and several guests who spoke briefly about the value of safely walking or biking to school.
Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said he was happy to show up at Thurston in his sneakers to greet the walkers.
“Walking to school is great for the environment, it’s great for kids to be outside, it’s social because kids can talk to their parents and friends,” said Taylor. “We at the city support pedestrian safety and walking, and it’s just great to be able to show that support by coming here to a wonderful public school.”
Thurston parent Allison Jeter organizes a Walk to School Day on the first Friday of every month. For this big annual day, the goal was for all 460 students to walk or bike.
The busses stopped away from the school to let riders walk a short distance to the building, which meant that virtually all 461 students participated in the event.
Betsy Mott, an injury prevention specialist in pediatric trauma at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, distributed age-appropriate books about safety habits on behalf of Safe Kids Huron Valley.
“Our role is to try to prevent injuries in children because most injuries are predictable and preventable,” she said.
What’s the most important advice she would give parents?
“Supervision is the first line of defense, but also engraining habits really young will help them continue those habits throughout a lifetime,” said Mott. “And safety can’t be compromised on.”
Principal Natasha York said the thing she loved most about the day was the community support.
“Not only did parents and students come out, but we had the local greater community come out, be a part of this, and celebrate the day,” said York. “This is probably the largest turn-out we’ve had as far as parents and community support, and it’s great to feel loved by the city of Ann Arbor.”