We asked past coordinators about the biggest challenges to organizing a successful Walk + Bike event and whether their school was able to overcome those challenges. If you’re a new coordinator or if you’ve struggled with these barriers in the past, read on to find suggestions for getting over these common hurdles.
Challenge #1: Time
Between work, after-school activities, and other commitments it’s no surprise that the number one challenge for coordinators is simply not having enough time to plan a great event and get the word out.
Fix: Start early and recruit parent volunteers. If you’ve already registered then you have a head start on planning a great event. Now is the time to put flyers up at school, start talking to teachers and parents to generate excitement about the event, and recruit your volunteers.
Form a Walk + Bike Committee and agree to check in a few times before the event. In the planning stage, volunteers can help get parents and teachers excited about participating, procure additional incentives, map out the safest routes, organize walking school buses, talk to local police about safety concerns, and more. During the Challenge, they can help lead walking school buses, collect student tally sheets, and plan activities to keep up momentum throughout the month.
Challenge #2: Lack of interest or support
An ambivalent or unsupportive school community can bring down even the most enthusiastic Walk + Bike coordinator.
Fix: Find out if any nearby schools are participating and see if teachers and parents there are interested in partnering up. Take advantage of the extra cool incentives to encourage participation. Most importantly, keep talking. Spread the word, call parents directly, speak with teachers, and connect with coordinators from around the state to get advice and support.
Challenge #3: Safety & infrastructure concerns
Many of you said that a lack of sidewalks and bikeways, busy intersections, and traffic made it challenging to find safe walking and biking routes for participating students.
Fix: Organize a walking school bus with other families in your neighborhood. Parents take turns leading the group to make sure kids stay safe and avoid dangerous streets.
Walk + Bike Challenge Month is a great time to talk to your local transportation department about the need for sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, bike parking, and other infrastructure issues near the school. Invite an engineer or planner to join a walking school bus so they understand the problem and see the demand for safer walking and biking routes.
What other challenges does your school encounter, and how have you addressed them? Share stories and ask for advice on Facebook or Twitter, or send us an email.