Walking to school provides children the opportunity to exercise, experience their neighborhood and connect with friends. Some studies have suggested that there's a link between physical activities and increased academic performance.

When Drea Echard started kindergarten last year, her mom made a point of walking to school to drop her off and pick her up. Walking back and forth to South Elementary School in Lancaster gave them time to talk, enjoy the fresh air and get a bit of exercise, said Katie Echard. Drea, now 6, loves walking, her mom said. "We'd talk about her day, and what she did. What she's excited about. What was happening the rest of the day," Echard said. "I like spending that time together." It's a pattern that the Lancaster City School District promotes. The district has worked with other local officials in recent years to encourage families to walk to school. In 2010, five elementary schools participated in Green Ribbon Month, an effort to raise awareness among motorists about the safety needs of kids walking and biking to school, said Lauren Marchetti, director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School. The center works to help schools and communities make their neighborhoods more walkable. They try to help parents overcome their worries about safety issues. "The fear of traffic is almost a self-fulfilling worry," Marchetti said. "As more parents are driving, more parents become convinced that there's too much traffic." She hopes efforts to get children to walk to school will be aided by communities' growing concerns about childhood obesity. As parents realize the need for children to be more active, Marchetti hopes more will turn to walking to school. "A lifetime of being physically active can begin in a walk to school," she said. Walking to school provides children the opportunity to exercise, experience their neighborhood and connect with friends, she said. Some studies have suggested that there's a link between physical activities and increased academic performance, she said. Robin Cather, principal of South Elementary School notices a difference between walkers and bus riders. Walkers seem to enjoy the social aspect of connecting with their friends on the way to school, she said. Children who have been on the bus are often "already tired" when they get to school, Cather said, while children who walk to school "seem to arrive excited to be here."