Thousands of elementary school students in the San Ramon Valley are getting an extra push to get biking and walking as the fourth annual Street Smarts Walk/Bike Challenge kicks off.
Sixteen local elementary schools are participating in the contest, which challenges kids to walk, bike, skateboard or scoot to school instead of riding in a car.
"A 2009 survey showed that in some San Ramon Valley schools, as few as 9.4 percent of elementary school students living within a quarter mile of school actually walked or biked to school," Street Smarts Program coordinator Cathy DeLuca said. "Street Smarts would like to increase this percentage, because walking and biking to school not only helps our children stay active, but it can reduce congestion on our roads."
The program, funded by federal grants and business sponsors, is a partnership between the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, law
enforcement and elected leaders from San Ramon, Danville and Contra Costa County.
Now in its ninth year, Street Smarts aims to get children interested in traffic safety through art, literary and computer arts contests featuring traffic safety messages.
The Walk/Bike Challenge asks students to track the number of times they walk, bike or take another non-car mode of transportation to school.
Participating students can earn raffle prizes of $50, $100 or $150 gift certificates to a local bike shop, among other prizes, according to DeLuca.
All students who log 10 or more trips will win a prize and the three schools with the highest participation will get an award, she said.
Another element of the Street Smarts campaign is the "It Happens" contest, in which high school students create ad campaigns to promote different ways of getting to school, from carpooling and driving to walking, skateboarding and biking.
San Ramon Valley middle school students are set to create 60-second public service announcements in Street Smarts' annual "Be Reel!" video contest this spring. This year's contest theme is "Model the Way," encouraging older kids to teach younger students about bike and walking safety.