The first Walking and Wheeling Day at Lake Norman Elementary School in Mooresville, NC, was inspired by none other than one persistent third grade student at the school.
“He would get out of the car every morning and say, ‘Dr. Nutting, why can’t I ride my bike to school? Dr. Nutting, where’s the bike rack?’” said Dr. Boen Nutting, principal at Lake Norman Elementary.
From these daily conversations, Nutting said she met with the school transportation director, who had attended a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) meeting, and they decided to implement pedestrian and bicycle safety activities at Lake Norman Elementary. Of the 750 kindergarten through fifth grade students who attend the school, 85 percent of them live within walking distance. When Nutting learned of this statistic, she said she thought the SRTS activities were a nice fit and supported implementing the activities.
The barrier to the children walking or bicycling to school, said Nutting, is the school’s location – it sits on a busy road, and there are no sidewalks for the students to use.
A member from the Iredell Statesville Schools Transportation Department called a meeting, attended by Nutting, an assistant superintendent, interested parents and teachers and an SRTS program representative. Together, this group began the planning stages of creating a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly school. The group contacted Cool Breeze Cyclery, a local bicycle shop, and it helped the school to purchase its first bicycle rack.
For a week, the one third grade student who had asked Nutting for a sidewalk bicycled to school. Then there were three students bicycling, then five, then fifteen. The town manager, officials from the department of planning and zoning and officers from the police and sheriff department wanted to help to ensure the children’s safety. All of a sudden, said Nutting, we really wanted sidewalks in place at the school. To install the necessary sidewalks, Lake Norman Elementary officials decided to spend $10,000 in school funds to create part of the sidewalk, and the town of Mooresville worked with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to paint the crosswalk.
The sidewalk was completed on May 8, 2008 — just in time for the May 9 celebration of the inaugural Walking and Wheeling Day. To excite the students for the event, a banner reading, “Walk or bike to school on Friday” was hung up at the school.
On Walking and Wheeling Day, a bike patrol and the triathlon members from Cool Breeze Cyclery bicycled around the neighborhoods, so parents could see that their children were supervised while walking or bicycling to school. Police officers also directed traffic to provide additional supervision.
“It was really amazing,” said Nutting. “The students just came riding and walking, and the parents walked, and it was a beautiful Friday morning.”
More than 200 students walked or bicycled to school that day, and since Walking and Wheeling Day, Nutting said the school has 30 student bicyclists on an average day and 50 bicyclists on Fridays. The next step for Nutting and the town of Mooresville is to write an infrastructure grant for the SRTS program. Nutting said she already has met with the planning and zoning manager and the town manager, and they all agree they want to apply for an SRTS infrastructure grant through NCDOT to install a sidewalk to connect the school to the main thoroughfare.
There are not enough safe routes for the children to walk and bicycle to school, said Nutting, and that danger is parents’ biggest hesitation in allowing their children to walk or bicycle to school. Not only would a sidewalk connecting the school to the main thoroughfare benefit the students at Lake Norman Elementary, but it would benefit the rest of the town, too. Parents are excited about the possibility of a sidewalk, said Nutting, so they can walk, exercise and bicycle with their children. Lake Norman Elementary also needs another bike rack because there are too many children bicycling to school for the bike rack to accommodate all of them.
“To see the children riding in the mornings, they have such a sense of independence and freedom, “said Nutting.
Dr. Boen Nutting
Lake Norman Elementary School
Phone: (704) 662-8261