Blaine County, Idaho: Encouragement Increases Walk to School Day Turnout

Introduction

Recently, Mountain Rides Transportation Authority, a alternative transportation provider, and the Cities of Bellevue, Hailey and Ketchum in Blaine County, ID, received a grant for $312,000 in federal Safe Routes to School funds from the Idaho Transportation Department to promote SRTS programs in the community. In addition to this grant, Mountain Rides received a non-infrastructure grant for $22,000 in federal SRTS funds for non-infrastructure projects at the five elementary schools. The largest elementary school Mountain Rides worked with is Hailey Elementary School.

Activities

Hailey Elementary students wait at the new drop-off area.Hailey Elementary is a neighborhood school with 400 students, most of who live within walking and bicycling distance to the school. Because of the lack of sidewalks and other pedestrian facilities, the school saw less than 15 percent of its student population walking and bicycling. Also, there was significant traffic at the student pickup and drop-off area, and the children had to cross the state highway to reach the school.

Back in 2003, Mountain Rides partnered with Hailey Elementary to implement a SRTS program. An AmeriCorps member, sponsored by Mountain Rides, was hired to develop the SRTS program within Blaine County. The member worked with Hailey Elementary’s principal to identify the barriers the students faced when walking or bicycling to school and created several pedestrian and bicycle groups. The AmeriCorps member prioritized the traffic at the pickup and drop-off zone in front of the school as the first barrier in need of elimination. With the help of the school principal, the fifth grade and the PTA, Mountain Rides implemented a new pick-up and drop-off situation by creating a pullthrough lane in front of Hailey Elementary. The fifth grade students wore brightly colored vests and hats and acted as valet attendants by opening the doors for the students as they arrived at school. In 2005, a permanent drop-off area was constructed based on this design, and in summer 2007, the school district encircled the school with six foot sidewalks.

So many bicyclists participated in Walk to School Day at Hailey Elementary that bicycles overflowed the bicycle racks.The City of Hailey received $84,700 to fund the construction of a sidewalk and pathway connections to the school sidewalks and to implement education and encouragement activities at Hailey Elementary. The Hailey Police Department and Mountain Rides members will work together to teach bicycle and pedestrian safety training to the students in spring 2008. Hailey Elementary participated in its fourth annual International Walk and Bike to School Day on October 3, 2007. All five elementary schools competed to achieve the highest level of students walking and bicycling. Hailey Elementary saw a participation rate of 42 percent, and the winning school achieved a 46 percent participation rate. All students received safety lights, SRTS wristbands, zipper pulls or pedometers provided Case Study Hailey Elementary students at the new drop-off area. by SRTS and Mountain Rides. Each school organized a raffle with prizes such as one-day ski resort passes.

In February 2008, Mountain Rides and its partners will host several community meetings to present its infrastructure projects. In March, the infrastructure project plans will be finalized and construction will begin. In April, the group will begin community outreach programs to inform the community of the upcoming sidewalk improvements.

Mountain Rides also plans to organize pedestrian safety and bicycle training workshops at all five schools during March and April. In May, there will be a competition at the five schools for the students to track the total distance they walk or bicycle to school for the month. The winner at each school will be awarded a bicycle donated by a local merchant, and the school with the most miles tracked will win a traveling trophy.

Milestones

The completion of the City of Hailey’s federally funded SRTS infrastructure project will provide safer routes for the students to walk and bicycle to school and eliminate walking and bicycling in the streets.

Mountain Rides will promote the connecting sidewalks and pathway to establish two more Walking Buses and Bike Trains. Mountain Rides has seen similar success with the other four elementary schools it works with as it has seen with Hailey Elementary. About 20 to 30 percent of the students walk to school on a regular basis, but during events such as Walk to School Day, student participation exceeds 40 percent. Mountain Rides plans to extend its efforts to the middle schools, since the incoming middle school students were exposed to Walk to School Day when they were in elementary school.

Contact

Jim Finch
Multi-modal Coordinator
Mountain Rides
Phone: (208) 788-7433
Email: jim@mountainrides.org