Recognized for Excellence in Building Community Support and Infrastructure for Safe Walking and Bicycling to School
WASHINGTON, D.C. and CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (October 26, 2009) ─ The National Center for Safe Routes to School announces Ben W. Murch Elementary School as the 2009 recipient of the James L. Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award, a national award for outstanding achievement in implementing a Safe Routes to School Program. U.S. Rep. James L. Oberstar, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, presented the award to Principal Dawn Ellis and the school’s 17-member student Safety Patrol at a celebration this morning.
“Murch Elementary School has made incredible progress improving the school’s safe walking and bicycling culture and infrastructure,” said Chairman Oberstar. “I am pleased to help recognize the tremendous efforts made here in Washington D.C. and hope Murch will inspire similar programs at other schools across the country. Together, we are changing the transportation habits of an entire generation of young people, and shaping a healthier, safer, less energy-dependent nation.”
The National Center for Safe Routes to School selected Murch Elementary School as this year’s recipient based on its exemplary Safe Routes to School program successes, including: reversing school policy that prohibited students from bicycling to school without special permission; building community support for walking and bicycling to school, including neighborhood support for new sidewalk construction; and implementing an effective student Safety Patrol program to enforce safe driving behavior around the school.
“In just one school year, Murch Elementary School’s Safe Routes to School program was able to overcome great infrastructural and ideological challenges,” said Lauren Marchetti, director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School. “Developing community support is an integral part of any Safe Routes to School program and Murch has done an admirable job fostering support within their local community.”
The James L. Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award is named for the congressman to honor his dedication to American schoolchildren as the pioneer for the National Safe Routes to School Program. Chairman Oberstar sponsored the Safe Routes to School legislation that strives to create safe settings to enable more parents and children to walk and bicycle to school.
“The Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award means a great deal to us at Murch Elementary,” said Principal Dawn Ellis. “The safety and wellness of our students is and always will be our first priority. Gaining recognition for our parent volunteers and students who have worked so hard in the area of safety and fitness allows us to demonstrate to Washington D.C. and the rest of the country that we have original ideas for making our school even better – and those ideas can work.”
According to Principal Ellis, federal funding was essential to Murch Elementary School’s success in addressing two major challenges: a lack of sidewalks and traffic speed. The school received federal Safe Routes to School funding through the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) in the amount of $150,000 to eliminate existing physical barriers to walking to school.
Ben W. Murch Elementary School was selected to receive the 2009 James L. Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award by an Award Committee comprised of representatives from: National Center for Safe Routes to School, America Walks, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Governors Highway Safety Association, Institute of Transportation Engineers, and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. For more information on the Award, visit www.saferoutesinfo.org/data-central/success-stories/safe-routes-to-school-award.
About The National Center for Safe Routes to School
Established in May 2006 through funding from the Federal Highway Administration, the National Center for Safe Routes to School assists communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bicycle to school. The Center strives to equip Safe Routes to School programs with the knowledge and technical information to implement safe and successful strategies. The National Center for Safe Routes to School is maintained by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. For more information, visit www.saferoutesinfo.org.