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Catonsville school holds Walk to School Day

Contact Reporterlloricchio@tribpub.com
Hillcrest Elementary needs more bike racks!

Rather than taking the bus to school, Hillcrest Elementary third-grader Drew Holden, 8, enjoyed a stroll down Frederick Road with his mother, Ellie McIntire, as part of the school's Walk to School Day Wednesday.

"I might have more energy for school now," Drew said.

They were among 342 parents and children who walked or rode bikes down the sunny streets of Catonsville, as an alternative to taking the bus or car to school, on the crisp fall morning.

That is an increase from the 250 who participated last year, said Kevin Nelson, of the Hillcrest Parent Teacher Association and a member of the committee that helped to organize the event.

"It's a dual purpose initiative," said Erin Hager, who heads the Healthy Hedgies Committee that organized the event. "It promotes physical activity and health, while also being green."

Once students arrived, they were asked to sign a sheet, so parents could tally the number of students who participated.

While the event was held to promote a health and exercise, parents at Hillcrest are also trying to bring attention to the need for additional bike racks at the school, Hager said.

Hager, whose two children attend Hillcrest, said parents are trying to get more racks so that more kids are able to ride their bikes to school.

There is currently one, but it's not enough, Hager said.

"The fact that we've had no room for bikes is an issue," said Hager, an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Nelson said the bike rack often "overflows" each day.

Mychael Dickerson, chief communications officer for Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) said that once, "parents at the school raise funds for the bike rack, the county will support their request."

First District Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents Catonsville, was among those who walked their children to school.

"I'm all in favor of anything they can do to promote bikeability and walkability," Quirk said, "In Baltimore County, we've made positive steps in that direction, but we have a long way to go."

Quirk said he'd like to see those who live close to school, either walk or bike there.

He'd also like to see more sidewalks added to school zones throughout the county, he said.

"I'm hoping that our community embraces the sidewalk culture more and more," Quirk said.

Walk to School Day began in 1997 as a global event to promote walkability within communities, according to walkbiketoschool.org. Bike to School Day, held in May, has a similar goal.

"From an environmental standpoint, having less cars on the road reduces traffic and there is less exhaust and fumes on the road," Nelson said.

Hager said parents are trying to promote "walking school buses" within the Catonsville community.

"Parents walk with their children by themselves," Hager said. "This is a way for people to walk to school together in their community."

Hager said that Wednesday was the first day a walking school bus was put into action by parents at Hillcrest. It started on Edmondson Avenue, she said.

"We want to promote wellness in every way and having students bike and walk to school is just one of those ways we can do that," said Hillcrest vice principal Denise Kelley.

Nelson said the school expects even more participants next year.

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