Why We Walk: Connection, Activity, and Activism

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February 24, 2022


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Busy weekday mornings were not out of the ordinary for the Ryder Family. As many families can relate, mornings can be no small feat – between getting children ready for school and catching trains for the morning work commute, there is lots to do in little time! When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Amanda Ryder, like many other working professionals, found herself with no commute and additional time in the morning. More time in the morning meant more time with her children, and this created an opportunity for the family to walk to school. Not only did this feel like a safer option due to the pandemic, but it was also a way for the family to get some fresh air, move their bodies and connect emotionally.

Young student with backpack approaches a crosswalk on her way to school on a sunny da
The Ryder family walks safely to school.

Fast forward to the 2021 – 2022 school year when Amanda signed up her daughter for the bus as it is the “cool” thing to do from a first grader perspective, however, the family still regularly walks to school as it has now become a family routine. Amanda was eager to find ways to connect the school walks with something bigger – whether it be advocating for changes to the physical environment to support walking and biking for all, or spreading awareness about the benefits of walking to school. The Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day, which rolled out on November 17, 2021 to promote activism and commemorate the movement Ruby Bridges started over 60 years ago, provided an opportunity to achieve this goal. The Canton school community rallied to support this event. Amanda’s daughter’s classroom teacher encouraged participation by reading a story about the history of Ruby Bridges, and families in the neighborhood even formed a Walking School Bus!

Around this same time, the Canton school community made major strides (pun intended) towards improving pedestrian and cyclist safety. Families and the interim school crossing guard had been noticing the high speed of many motorists who drive by a main intersection near the school. Recognizing this was a barrier to walking and biking, the crossing guard presented to the town traffic committee, and as a result, a flashing light crosswalk was installed which allows for a safer route to school!

Amanda hopes to continue the walks to school with her daughter as she gets older and looks forward to continuing to advocate for changes that promote active, safe routes to school for students across Canton.

Submitted by: Amanda Ryder, Parent, Canton Public Schools