In Lecco, Italy, less than a hundred miles from Milan, the town has made a commitment to give up schoolbuses and encourage children to walk to school. The New York Times ran a fascinating article on the walking program, called “piedibus,” or “foot bus,” because the children walk in guided groups along a predetermined path.

From Students give up wheels for their own two feet:

Although the routes are each generally less than a mile, the town’s piedibuses have so far eliminated more than 100,000 miles of car travel and, in principle, prevented thousands of tons of greenhouse gases from entering the air, Dario Pesenti, the town’s environment auditor, estimates.

This inspired me to find out if there was anything similar happening here in Portland. There are no piedibuses, at least not that I could find, but there is a school walking program called Safer Routes to School which operates from a similar desire to improve the health of children while improving the health of the planet.

The Portland Safer Routes to Schools offers a selection of family-friendly walking maps based on each school’s neighborhood. These walking maps show recommended routes to school, the location of traffic signals, high- and low-traffic streets as well as offstreet paths, and even have a “map game” with child-focused instructions on how to read a map and plot a path.

Safe Routes is the national clearinghouse for walking safely to school. Check to see if there’s a program in your town — if there’s not yet, Safe Routes has information on how to set one up.