Safe Routes to School projects increase the number of children walking and bicycling to school, which also cuts down on the number of cars. As cars emit pollutants for each mile traveled, reducing traffic can improve the quality of air that children breathe in and around their schools.
Returning to 1969 levels of walking and bicycling to school would save 3.2 billion vehicle miles, 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide and 89,000 tons of other pollutants-equal to keeping more than 250,000 cars off the road for a year.
When families decide to lace up their sneakers or strap on their bike helmets to get to school instead of riding in a car, they help reduce the amount of air pollutants emitted by automobiles.
Vehicles emit a variety of air pollutants, resulting in increases in ground-level ozone, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter such as particles of dust, soot, smoke, dirt and liquid droplets. To learn more about the health risks of pollution, click here: www.epa.gov/air/toxicair/newtoxics.html
The more people who walk or bicycle, the better off our air quality will become… but until we change our commuting habits, the mix of pollutants in the air requires us to take caution. Parents should check the Air Quality Index forecast each day to help protect children from poor air quality. Click here http://airnow.gov for local air quality forecasts and real-time maps. On bad air quality days, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourages everyone to drive less and to walk, bike or ride public transportation. However, those who suffer from respiratory illnesses like asthma should not walk or ride on these days.
Children may be exposed to higher levels of air pollution near roadways with heavy traffic. If possible, try to find routes with less traffic volume.