Nine elementary and middle schools in Mansfield, OH, received funding for Safe Routes to School (SRTS) infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects through the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). As a result, more than 1,000 students will benefit from sidewalk improvements and installations, as well as from various education and encouragement activities.
The SRTS task force in Mansfield is the driving force in creating a successful SRTS program in the community. Started in November 2006, after a pilot Walk to School Day, the task force united members from the City of Mansfield, Richland County Regional Planning, Mansfield City Schools, Neighborhood Watch, the Police Department and parents.
The task force funded its school travel plan with in-kind contributions from the city of Mansfield and volunteer efforts of the other agencies on the task force. The primary goals of the task force are to increase the number of students walking and bicycling to school, improve student safety, increase public awareness of traffic safety and engage the community in SRTS activities.
The task force used its school travel plan as part of its SRTS funding application to ODOT. In February 2008, the task force was awarded $25,000 in SRTS non-infrastructure funds. The task force expects to use approximately 40 percent of these funds to hire a part-time coordinator to create a two-year plan for encouragement, education and evaluation programs. The pedestrian and bicycle safety education component is in development and there are plans for walking and bicycling events, billboards and TV commercials. The task force plans to put SRTS information in the city utility bills to promote and educate the community on how motorists can keep the roads safe for children walking or bicycling to school.
After conducting parent surveys and walkability studies, the task force discovered that the majority of the sidewalks needed repairs and that many of the intersections were unsafe to cross. One major parent concern was crime, and the task force will create a crime prevention education component.
Because of redistricting, not as many students walked to school in the fall 2008 school year as in previous years. Among those students attending school within walking distance, the task force plans to increase student pedestrian participation through regular Walk to School Day events. In April 2008, there will be two Walk to School Days at all the elementary and middle schools in Mansfield, and in May there will be weekly Walking Thursdays. During these walking events, the students will meet at various designated locations, and a volunteer from the task force will lead them to school. The students who cannot walk to school will participate by walking 10 laps around the gym. Students who participate will receive a “high five” paper cut-out of a hand. After collecting a specific number of “high fives” the children can trade them in for a prize.
Eventually, the task force wants the SRTS program to become a community and school-driven program.
With the $248,000 in infrastructure grants, the task force will focus on sidewalk improvements and installations, as well as school flasher installations. The city engineering department is coordinating the infrastructure project, and the completion date is set for 2009.
Safe Routes to School Program Coordinator
City of Mansfield
Phone: (419) 755-9689