Safe Routes Nebraska is the Nebraska Department of Roads’ state-level implementation of the federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program. Safe Routes Nebraska and the Department of Roads provide schools and communities across the state with access to almost $1 million per year in funds to build safer routes to school and promote walking and bicycling. One of the successes is a non-infrastructure program run by the Lexington Community Fitness Initiative (CFI). This program, called the Street and Bicycle Safety Program, received $23,554 in federal SRTS funds for its enforcement and education-based activities.
The safety program targets four elementary schools and focuses on traffic enforcement and education, student and parent education, personnel training and awareness of the health problems caused by inactive living. One successful aspect of the program is its crossing guard group, in which both parents and community members volunteer to act as crossing guards at the schools’ intersections. The volunteers attended training sessions taught by a local law enforcement officer in August 2007, and they will continue training through May 2008. By coordinating the crossing guards at key intersections near the school, CFI has created a safer walking environment for the children.
CFI also has provided the elementary school students with a pedometer to participate in the “Walk Across Nebraska” interschool challenge, which encourages children to walk while educating them on the importance of staying active. In this challenge, each school has a game board that looks like the state of Nebraska, and the students in each class measure their progress with pedometers and track it on the board. The class that reaches its destination first wins a Twister Game, and all students keep their pedometers.
To make the community aware of the importance of children participating in physical activity, CFI also has run newspaper and radio public service announcements, submitted newspaper articles, posted fliers and organized community events. There were two opportunities for parents to attend forums featuring expert speakers on SRTS topics, such as nutrition and activity. At the first forum, held in October 2007, the discussion focused on the benefits of the SRTS grant, traffic safety and exercise. During the forum, a local law enforcement officer presented on traffic safety, and a physical therapist detailed how to make exercise fun for children. The second forum featured a dietician, who discussed nutrition tips, and a physical therapist, who provided advice on how to stay active during the winter. The crossing guard program helps the students to cross the street safely.
Before the safety program was initiated, CFI conducted a travel survey of the kindergarten through fifth grade students at the four elementary schools and learned that 27 percent regularly walk to and from school. CFI has plans to conduct post-evaluation surveys and measure changes in the students’ body mass index by summer 2008. Two more forums are planned for February 2008 and April 2008. The first will look at body image issues, upcoming CFI events and the Health Report Cards that the Lexington School system will distribute. The final forum will discuss summer activities and programs available throughout the city and local parks for the children to stay active during the summer.
Safe Routes to School Coordinator for Nebraska Department of Roads
Sinclair Hille Architects
700 Q Street
Lincoln, NE 68508
Phone: (402) 476-7331