Imagine children investing in their future by choosing to walk or ride their bikes to school, making a habit of it, and slowly transforming a nation plagued by traffic and obesity.
The future was on the minds of those participating in the third annual Nevada Moves Day on Wednesday. It was the first time the state-wide event came to Douglas County. Jacks Valley Elementary School joined 106 schools across the Silver State in unleashing the power of feet.
"It helps you stay fit and have a better lifestyle," said 9-year-old fourth-grader Christopher Rowe, who rode his bike to school wearing a helmet and a bright-orange T-shirt. "It's more fun."
Christopher's father, Tim Rowe, and mother, Harriet Cummings, accompanied their son and three other students to the school. Tim Rowe happens to be chairman of Gov. Brian Sandoval's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board. He said Nevada Moves Day is not only a chance to promote fitness and the outdoors, but also to highlight pedestrian safety.
"One thing is visibility," Rowe said. "We want the kids to be seen. That's why we have the bright-colored shirts."
Minutes after the orange-clad caravan arrived, JVES Principle Pam Gilmartin relayed Sandoval's proclamation for the event over the school's intercom and then directed students to the track, where they proceeded to walk lap after lap.
"Jacks Valley Road can be dangerous, so we decided to pump up the school on the track," said Gilmartin. "The students can earn mileage as part of our Mileage Club. Every five miles walking gets them a foot, and after a hundred miles, they get a T-shirt."
Gilmartin said pedestrian routes to the school need some improvement, including more signage, better maintenance, and alignment to one side of the street.
"The biggest problem is that the trail is on two sides of the street, so students have to cross at Arcadia (Drive)," she said.
Fifth-grader Alex Laningham, 11, said he prefers riding his bike to school. At the same time, he's worried about sharing the right-of-way with cars.
"I don't want to get hit," he said. "But it's fun. I would probably ride my bike to school every day. It's important for exercising and less pollution. I think it helps you get out and play sports, not like gaining weight and eating all that junk food."
Trish Giomi, NDOT transit coordinator, was handing out raffle tickets for helmets, water bottles and other prizes. She said she specializes in the department's multi-modal planning, which means developing alternative modes of transportation in Nevada communities.
"I think it's important for kids to come out and get all the health benefits of walking and biking," she said, "but it's also good for the community. It provides a sense of community."
NDOT used Wednesday's event to remind those behind the wheel to exercise caution in school zones.
"Motorists should only pass bicyclists when it is safe with at least three feet of space between the bicycle and vehicle and never overtake a vehicle that has stopped for pedestrians," NDOT officials wrote in a press release. "Pedestrians and bicyclists should only cross streets when safe, and look both ways before and while crossing."
When asked if he'd miss the big yellow buses that bring kids to and from school, assuming biking becomes the norm, Alex said, "Not really. But I'd kind of miss them when we go on school trips."