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Cross-Country Cyclist Stops in Billings to Get Kids Moving

October 28, 2011

BILLINGS, Mont. - A man bicycling across the nation for the American Heart Association is trying to get more children to be more active. On Friday, Chris Figureida arrives in Billings. He says he is encouraging kids to bike or walk to school if they can, while promoting the "Safe Routes to Schools" program.

"And 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. And really, the overall goal is trying to fight the epidemic of childhood obesity that we have in this country."

Figureida says one problem with getting kids to walk or bike to school is that rural roads aren't always safe for pedestrians and bicyclists. The federal Safe Routes to School program helps states pay for improvements, although it is limited, with less than one in four projects funded. That's why Figureida supports higher funding.

"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 bicycling. And studies have shown that when you do this type of grant, just bicycling alone increases anywhere from 20 to 200-percent more – and overall, lowers everyone's BMI [body mass index] in that neighborhood."

Figureida is also making stops in Big Timber, Bozeman, Butte, Helena and Missoula through November 5. He began his trip in Maine in August, and hopes to finish in Seattle in mid-November. You can follow his journey at www.cycleforheart.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT