Following a five-year plan has helped the city of Amory and its school district take steps to make neighborhoods safer for children to walk and bicycle to school. Amory, a small, rural community, has a population of 7,500, and its two elementary schools and middle school are all within a two-mile range of each other. Families feel safe in Amory.
“Kids get on their bikes and ride all across town,” says Carol Rogers, Coordinator for School Health and grant writer for the school district.
Liberty, MO, is a small historic community with a population of less than 30,000 people. All nine of the elementary schools in Liberty are in neighborhoods where most of the students live within walking distance to school. Unfortunately, a lack of infrastructure discourages many parents from allowing their children to walk or bicycle to school.
The Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), a regional planning organization for Greater Kansas City, is training people to become “Safety Ambassadors” in an effort to provide consistency in the pedestrian and bicycle safety messages that children are learning. “This has been a very well-received effort,” said Aaron Bartlett, BikePed and Safety Programs Manager for MARC.
When the PedNet Coalition in Columbia, MO organized daily Walking School Buses at West Boulevard Elementary School in fall 2006, only fifteen of the nearly 300 kindergarten through fifth grade students participated regularly.
Since then, the participation rate has grown to 65 students.
Sometimes starting small makes sense. Instead of trying to inundate the city of Cape Girardeau, MO, with a wide range of Safe Routes to School (SRTS) activities, Dr. Mark Langenfeld, a professor in the department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation at Southeast Missouri State University, focused on organizing a Walk to School Day at Alma Schrader Elementary School, and the event received tremendous publicity.
New Hope obtained a $31,200 SRTS grant in 2007 from the Minnesota Department of Transportation to help slow down vehicle traffic around its Sunny Hollow Elementary School and also to develop an education program for students at the school. The school has 517 students, and few walk or bicycle to school due to challenges created by busy roads, said Eric Weiss, Community Development Assistant for New-Hope.
Stowe Elementary School in Duluth, MN, has approximately 375 students in preschool through the fifth grade. The school is two blocks from a highway, which creates a barrier for children who want to bicycle or walk to school but must cross the highway. Additionally, many of the neighborhoods surrounding the school lack sidewalks, so some children who walk to school must walk on dirt paths that run next to the streets.