TAMPA, Fla. - Personal fitness will be the focus Wednesday as countless students around the world participate in "International Walk and Bike to School Day," including those across Hillsborough County. However, the annual event will be noticeably different from years past, with no gatherings planned.
Over at Roosevelt Elementary School in Tampa, Hillsborough County Public Schools superintendent Addison Davis greeted families and students walking or biking to school. There was live music outside as students arrive, but gone are they raffles, coffee and refreshments and other activities that typically come with 'Walk and Bike' events.
"It is important to keep events like this one to promote healthy schools and a sense of normalcy for students," according to a school district statement.
The purpose of International Walk and Bike to School Day is to celebrate a focus on fitness by urging students to find an alternative way to get to school than carpooling or riding the bus. In an online public service announcement released on social media, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister encouraged students to use caution and keep safety top of mind while participating.
"If you're planning to hop on a bike or lace up those sneakers, remember, wearing brightly-colored clothing makes it easier for drivers to see you," said Sheriff Chad Chronister. "Walk in places where drivers expect to see you, like a crosswalk or sidewalk, and remember to stop, look, and listen before you cross the street."
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Chronister also asked drivers to join in by helping to create a safer environment for pedestrians.
As more students and families take to the streets on Wednesday, drivers are encouraged to slow down in school zones, yield to pedestrians and cyclists at crosswalks, and keep their eyes on the road, not their phone. As of Oct. 1, 2019, it is illegal for Florida drivers to hold cell phones in their hands in work or school zones.
Hillsborough County school officials said crossing guards will continue working to keep pedestrians safe at all of the district's elementary and middle schools both before and after school on Wednesday.