Athens, Georgia: Safe Routes Athens

Introduction

Safe Routes Athens (SRA) was established in fall 2005 by the joint forces of the Clarke County School District and BikeAthens, a local non-profit organization that encourages walking and bicycling in the Athens community. SRA is a community effort, supported by volunteers wishing to promote Safe Routes to School (SRTS) activities and healthy living practices to the local school children.

Activities

Children walking, biking and riding a scooter arrive at school just as the sun is coming up.A pilot program began at Barrow Elementary in fall 2005. A task force was created of parents, school employees, community volunteers and representatives from the health care system, transportation department, planning department and police department. Since 2005, the task force has created policy for SRTS education and encouragement activities for the school district, paying special attention to Barrow Elementary’s pilot program.

Participating in International Bike and Walk to School day in October 2005 was the first event planned at Barrow Elementary. For this event, the children met at a central location approximately one mile from the school, where they had refreshments before walking to school. Each month, students at Barrow Elementary participate in Walk and Bike to School Days, in which parents, teachers and neighbors work together with law enforcement officers to ensure the route is safe and adequately staffed with volunteer crossing guards and ride leaders. On some occasions, the mayor and several county commissioners joined the children on the Walk and Bike to School Days.

Students display road signs at a BikeAthens-sponsored bike rodeo.In an effort to extend education and encouragement activities to other school-age children in the district, SRA held its first bicycle rodeo at a local park in April 2006. SRA and a University of Georgia student intern organized the event, which was supported by the Clarke County Department of Leisure Services and the Athens Regional Medical Center’s Safe Kids Program. Members of the BikeAthens Bike Recycling Program volunteered to set up a station to repair participating children’s bicycles and also to distribute helmets and water bottles. Because of the event’s success, it was held again in May 2007.

Formal education efforts expanded in 2006 with a training course offered by the League of American Bicyclists. In March and July 2006, eight local residents completed the three day course to become a certified league cycling instructor. In April 2007, the local instructors taught a bicycle education course designed for the parents of school children and taught one for the students of Barrow Elementary in fall 2007. Case Study Children walking, biking, and riding a scooter, arrive at school just as the sun is coming up.

Milestones

In May 2007, Barrow Elementary hosted an informational SRTS workshop as part of the Georgia Department of Transportation’s statewide program to introduce SRTS to Athens and surrounding counties. Another GADOT sponsored workshop was held at Barrow Elementary in September 2007 to explain the process of writing a grant for SRTS funds. Currently, SRA is working with the Clark County school district and the county government to develop a county-wide SRTS plan that includes all 13 elementary school and four middle schools. Once this plan is complete, the schools will be ready to begin applying for federal SRTS funding.

SRA continues to expand efforts at Barrow Elementary and has begun SRTS programs at a second school, Chase Street Elementary. The organization also continues to develop its bicycle education programming and offers instruction to children, parents and other adults.

Contact

John Kissane
Safe Routes Athens Coordinator
Phone: (706) 613-7307
Email: jandakissane@bellsouth.net