Canberra is one of the most unwalkable cities where the car rules and pedestrians come second, according to the organiser behind National Walk Safely to School Day.
Chairman and chief executive of the Pedestrian Council of Australia Harold Scruby said adding a walk before the school day started would have great mental and physical health benefits, but the nation's capital lagged behind in making streets safe for pedestrians.
He said while there were plenty of bike paths, a lack footpaths and motorists parking on verges made Canberra a place not conducive for kids to be walking.
"It's no good when the kids walking along the footpath and there's a car parked in the driveway and they're going to walk out on the road. It's that whole car dependent culture," he said.
"I just want to hope that it trickles down and sooner or later we get the message that pedestrians should come at the top of the road usage tree not at the bottom."
The ACT government fast-tracked path and road safety upgrades as part of its COVID-19 economic survival package.
The 21st National Walk Safely to School Day was bumped from May to September 11 because of the pandemic, giving rise to a new slogan: step into spring, put your feet first and walk plenty in 2020.
The campaign encourages families to build up a habit of walking to school, ensuring that children under 10 hold an adult's hand.
In a challenging year, the event's ambassador Professor Patrick McGorry highlighted the correlation between physical and mental health.
"The outlook for our kids' health is increasingly grim if we don't make much more serious efforts to keep them healthy and flatten the curve on the trends towards growing obesity and escalating anxiety and mental health issues," he said.
Mr Scruby said families who lived too far from their schools could try walking part of the way to school or getting off public transport a stop earlier.
"We're saying if you have to drive why not leave the car half a kilometre, maybe a kilometre from school and have a walk?
"And that way the parents and the kids get a walk. They can teach their kids how to cross roads. They get to the school and they don't cause a dangerous traffic jam."