On Wednesday, comfortable shoes are a must for parents and children around the area. It's International Walk to School Day, and schools around Champaign and Urbana will be participating.
Events include a "walking school bus" where students are picked up by an adult and walk in a supervised group to school, and walks accompanied by local celebrities, including University of Illinois athletes and the mayors of Champaign and Urbana.
Cynthia Hoyle, co-chair of the CU Safe Routes to School Project, said nearly 1,000 students walked during the last Walk to School Day, and she expects more than that this year.
"The two main reasons that the schools have identified for us when we ask why they participate, the first one is health, to get kids to be more active, and then the second one is to help them learn about safety and how to get back and forth to school safely," she said.
All of the elementary schools in Urbana are participating on Wednesday, as well as four Champaign elementaries, Hoyle said. According to the national Web site, www.walktoschool.org, 136 Illinois schools have walking plans for Wednesday.
Rose Hudson, Hoyle's co-chair, said staff at schools have increasingly embraced the day, in its fifth annual round of local events.
The Safe Routes organization did a survey of how local students got to school, Hoyle said, and found that on a normal day, about 15 percent walked and about 2 percent more bicycled.
"About 43 percent are being driven in the family vehicle, and that creates congestion," she said, "which leaves it less safe for children, and which we now know deteriorates the air quality around schools ... from all of the idling vehicles."