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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cyclist Crossing the Country Urging Kids to Get Active

Public News Service-MN

October 10, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A man bicycling across the nation for the American Heart Association, is trying to get more children more active. He arrives in Minnesota today.

Chris Figureida is speaking at schools along the way. He says one simple way for kids to start is by walking or biking to school and back.

"I try to let them know that they can make a difference in the world by starting with themselves and having those healthy habits every day. The overall goal is trying to fight the epidemic of childhood obesity that we have in this country."

Figureida, a volunteer, says one problem with getting kids to walk or bike to school is that some neighborhoods have no accessible sidewalks or bike paths. A federal program that provides grants for infrastructure improvements is limited, he says, and less than one in four projects is funded.

That's why Figureida supports legislation in Minnesota that would take 3 million state dollars and move them into the Safe Routes to School program.

"That would make it so that parents don't have to drive their kids to school in the morning. Make it so that kids can use their bicycles. Studies have shown that when you do this type of grant, bicycling alone increases anywhere from 20 to 200 percent more, and overall it lowers BMI (body mass index) for everyone in that neighborhood."

At Red Pine Elementary School, Eagan, a program implemented over the past three years has led to a doubling in the number of students now walking or biking to school. Figureida will speak at Red Pine on Tuesday.

In addition to the Twin Cities, Figureida will also pedal through St. Cloud, Brainerd and Perham on his way to North Dakota. He says the scheduling worked out perfectly.

"This is a beautiful part of the country and I feel very fortunate that I get to see and meet everyone - on two wheels. I couldn't imagine a better place for riding a bike right now than in the fall in Minnesota."

Figureida began his trip in Maine in August and hopes to finish in Seattle in mid-November. His journey is reported at

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