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.
“It really fit a need in the community. Most places understood how to do the infrastructure part; a lot of communities are sort of scratching their heads as far as education.”
MARC received two grants in 2007: the MARC “Destination: Safe” Coalition, which is a partnership among local agencies seeking to improve transportation system safety, provided $6,691.79. In addition, the Kansas Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program awarded $1,646.76. The dual funding was used for two sessions that have trained 38 people. Many police officers, emergency management technicians and experts in health and safety and education already were interacting with people about safe routes to school, and the standard training ensures that they are sharing the same safety messages throughout the region, according to Bartlett. MARC is training the trainers and crossing the bi-state area to unite everybody. Bartlett said he developed the idea for Safety Ambassadors after attending a Bicycle Education Safety Conference in Madison, WI, in 2002. There, among other ideas, participants learned of the value of consistency in teaching educational messages at bicycle rodeos.
Bartlett said MARC created its own curriculum by drawing materials from the best programs in other areas, such as Madison’s. In the past, coordinators and trainers at safety-related events have been self-taught and lacked a formalized network to share experiences and lessons learned. The Safety Ambassadors program provides standardized training for course instructors and connects organizations that want training with those that have been trained, according to the MARC Web site. After the program’s first session, in which 17 Safety Ambassadors were trained, nine regional events hosted Safety Ambassadors education sessions. Nearly 1,000 children learned safe bicycle and pedestrian practices. In addition, approximately 810 helmets were given to children as they learned proper fitting techniques, according to the Web site.
Bartlett said he hopes to be able to collect local data about who, what, when, where, why and how children have been injured due to pedestrian or bicycle accidents and then tailor the education to the problems revealed. For example, if staff in an emergency room treat many children injured because they are not wearing bicycle helmets, it could indicate the need to focus education on proper helmet choice, fitting and reinforcement of the importance of helmets. Although the program began with dual funding from Kansas and Missouri, Bartlett said that in the future, MARC anticipates charging a fee for the training.
“Our plans are to have the program sustain itself,” he said.
MARC BikePed and Safety Programs Manager