The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) committee in the City of New London, IA, is in the beginning phases of implementing its SRTS activities within the community. In New London, Clark Elementary School, a kindergarten through fifth grade school, is on the same block as the local community childcare center and the New London Junior-Senior High School, which houses the sixth through twelfth grade. The proximity of the schools and childcare center creates significant traffic congestion, leading to unsafe conditions for students walking or bicycling to school. With its future infrastructure improvements and SRTS activity support, New London will further increase its level of safety for students walking and bicycling to school.
The members of the SRTS committee come from a variety of disciplines — the police department, city council, the school board, elementary and middle school principals, parents, the school superintendent, the director of the local community childcare center and the SRTS Coordinator. One transportation engineer temporarily joined the committee to estimate the cost of the sidewalk reparations to begin in spring 2008 for the ten blocks of sidewalk in front of the schools. Although he is not a permanent member of the SRTS committee, the engineer frequently works on projects involving the City of New London. The committee received $145,500 in federal SRTS funding from the Iowa Department of Transportation, the bulk of which is for infrastructure improvements. With the funding, city employees had the means to install a flashing yellow light at a critical intersection, and they plan to install parking curbs at the elementary school and paint the crosswalk lines. The remainder of the infrastructure money will go toward the sidewalk reparations.
Although the bulk of the grant money is for infrastructure projects, $10,000 is earmarked for non-infrastructure planning. The committee also received $8,500 from the HNI Charitable Foundation for non-infrastructure operational elements and new bicycle racks at both Clark Elementary and the junior-senior high school. To record their progress, the committee members are creating a CD toolkit of the documents they have created, and the steps they have made in implementing SRTS activities. The toolkit will contain work plans, press releases, posters and fliers of SRTS events that occurred during the first year of programming in New London. By fall 2007, it is anticipated that the basic elements of the toolkit will be assembled, and annual additions will be made as the program progresses.
In October 2007, the police department ran a Bike Rodeo at Clark Elementary. This program was one of the school’s first SRTS events, and it exceeded exectations in terms of student attendance. The SRTS committee expected 25 students to attend the rodeo, but almost 70 children participated. At the rodeo, children received Case Study Student receiving bicycle safety tips during the Bike Rodeo. either a free bicycle helmet or bicycle lock donated by three local businesses. The police officers set up practice courses for the student bicyclists and an instructional course dedicated to teaching hand signals and other bicycle safety elements. There also was a bicycle raffle and a bicycle maintenance area staffed by a local bicycle shop’s two mechanics, who inspected the students’ bicycles for tune-ups.
The SRTS committee also published its first quarterly newsletter, which aims to inform students and parents about SRTS news and upcoming SRTS activities. The committee has applied for $16,000 in funding from the HNI Charitable Foundation for creating a logo, purchasing a laptop computer for the SRTS coordinator and for hosting a SRTS training session on how the committee can become a self-sustaining organization. The committee will find out if it received the grant later this year.
The technical education teacher at the neighboring junior-senior high school is working with the sixth, seventh and eighth grade students to design New London’s SRTS Web site. Meetings with the student volunteers, the SRTS Coordinator and the school’s technology instructor to determine the Web site’s design will begin in March 2008. The Web site should be ready in spring 2008 and coincide with the start of sidewalk improvements around the school. Plans also are underway for a SRTS fundraiser and competition in the spring for the different classrooms at Clark Elementary. This fundraiser will require each class to have at least one student or parent walking on the school track for 12 continuous hours. While one student is walking, classmates will participate in pedestrian safety educational activities until it is their turn to walk.
Almost 30 percent of the students in kindergarten through eighth grade walk or bicycle to school, and the committee members want to see this participation increase to 50 percent. The committee members also will continue to ensure a low traffic volume around the schools and to increase the number of students participating in physical activity. Through their SRTS efforts, committee members hope to resolve safety issues while promoting healthy lifestyles and better air quality.
New London Safe Routes to School