Program encourages students to walk, bike to school

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Galax puts 'Safe Routes to School' funds to use

By April Wright, Reporter

The City of Galax has received a $2,000 grant from Richmond-based non-profit Prevention Connections to establish a Safe Routes to School walk at Galax Elementary School.
A “Walk-to-School Day” event will be held on Friday. Galax Elementary School’s walking Mileage Club will benefit from the grant with incentives, like pedometers, to encourage children to walk.
Funded by Prevention Connections, the event will publicize the national Safe Routes to School program, which aims to increase physical activity among schoolchildren.
“Galax is committed to ensuring that all our students can utilize physically active transportation, such as walking and bicycling, for a safe and enjoyable trip to school. The number of children who walk and bike to school has decreased by 73 percent over the last 40 years, and we need to turn that around,” said Brenda Marrah, grants administrator for the City of Galax.
As of 2009, 13 percent of children ages 5 to 14 walked or bicycled to school, compared to 48 percent of students in 1969, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2009 National Household Travel Survey.
The Safe Routes program is funded in Virginia by VDOT and Prevention Connections.
Virginia’s program assists localities and schools in the development of plans, activities and infrastructure improvements to make walking and bicycling to school a safe and appealing transportation option for students. Prevention Connections provides technical assistance and financial incentives for Title I schools to create safe walking and biking routes.
Obesity remains the second leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, behind tobacco use. More than 60 percent of Virginia adults are obese or overweight, and it is estimated that as many as one in three children in Virginia is also obese or overweight.
Childhood obesity can lead to serious health problems once only seen in adults, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and sleep apnea.
Earlier this year, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth released the results of the first Virginia Childhood Obesity Survey, which found that at least one out of five young people in Virginia between the ages of 10 and 17 is obese or overweight.
The highest percentages of childhood obesity were found in Southwest Virginia, where nearly one in three children is obese or overweight.

Galax to hold Bike Rodeo
With a prestigious grant award from the National Center for Safe Routes to School, the City of Galax will hold a Bike Rodeo on Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Galax Elementary School basketball courts.
In case of rain, the Bike Rodeo will be held on the fourth floor of the Galax Recreation Center.
Children and parents should ride or bring their bikes and helmets to the Bike Rodeo. Bike helmets will be given away, and a chance to win a new bicycle will be available for Bike Rodeo participants who are city residents or who attend Galax City Public Schools.
Five new bicycles will be given away at the Bike Rodeo. Two new bicycles were donated by the Galax Rotary Club, one by the Galax Elks Lodge and two by the Healthy CATs, a local Healthy Community Action Team.
The new bicycles are on display at Galax elementary and middle schools.
The Galax Police Department has been conducting bike safety training at Galax Elementary School for the second grade.
Galax received one of 25 awards nationally from among 249 grant applications. These grants enable and encourage children to safely walk and bicycle to school.
In a press release, the National Center for Safe Routes to School officials said they were  impressed with the way the city, the public schools, the police department and the parks and recreation department all worked together to maximize the national award into a special event.
The team working on these Safe Routes to School walking and biking events include the principals of Galax elementary and middle schools, the Galax Police Department, city grants administrator Brenda Marrah and Dave Nelson, director of parks and recreation.