A Safe Routes to School program in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, has been awarded the annual James L. Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award, the highest honor a Safe Routes to School program can receive. Each year, the National Center for Safe Routes to School bestows the Award to a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program in the United States for its outstanding achievement in promoting safe walking and bicycling to school.
Although 66 percent of students live within 2 miles of Chagrin Falls Intermediate School and/or Chagrin Falls Middle School, less than 17 percent of students walked or biked to school in 2009. Now, 26 percent of students regularly walk or bike to school, equivalent to an extra 70 students every day. Program leaders surveyed parents and identified a lack of continuous sidewalks, dangerous street crossings, and personal safety as key obstacles to children walking and bicycling to school.
Using this information, the program:
Improved the safety of the most commonly-used routes to school by building sidewalks, improving snow removal, enforcing school zone speed limits and implementing a “no right on red” policy at key intersections during school hours
Employed volunteer crossing guards to guide students through intersections near the school
Provided creative safety education programs and assemblies for students using the local community theater and student-to-student outreach campaigns
The Award Selection Committee felt that three other programs deserved special recognition:
The City of Takoma Park, Maryland’s Safe Routes to School program includes five area schools. They established a SRTS brand and school-based programming, and promoted long-term program sustainability with funds raised through a year-long walking and running program that culminates in a city-wide 5K road race, 5K walk and youth and fun runs.
Brightwood Elementary School in Springfield, Mass., implemented a Walking School Bus program to successfully address challenges of childhood obesity, neighborhood safety, absenteeism and tardiness. The program, which has increased participation from 50 students to 130, has become a model for other area schools that want to make positive community changes with few resources.
Corrales Elementary School in the Village of Corrales, N.M., is bordered by a busy highway. The SRTS program addressed this infrastructure challenge with a unique approach that included the engagement of the entire community, raising the percentage of students regularly walking and biking to school from 5 percent to 25 percent.