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Safe Routes to School

October 23, 2008
Safe routes to school Contributed by: kerry ewald on 9/9/2008 Growing up many adults can remember walking or bicycling to school, it provided a time for children and parents to socialize and participate in physical activity. Forty years ago, approximately 90 percent of children walked or biked if they lived within one mile of their school. Today only 25 percent of children choose to walk or bike to school (National Center for Safe Routes to School, 2006). In 2004, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) conducted a survey to determine the barriers parents cite for not allowing children to walk or bike to school. Results from the survey conducted of 1,588 adults in regard to children between the ages of 5-18 years indicated the following as barriers: distance to school (61.5%), traffic related danger (30.4%), weather (18.6%), crime danger (11.7%), opposing school policy (6%) and other (15%) (NCSRTS, 2006). The National Center for Safe Routes to School has developed Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs to educate parents, schools, community leaders and local, state and federal governments on ways to improve conditions around schools to enable and encourage children to walk and bike to school. These programs work to reduce traffic, air pollution and encourage a healthy and active lifestyle by supporting walking and biking as a safe and appealing form of transportation. With children engaging less in physical activity and growing overweight, the climb in gas prices, traffic and vehicle emission pollution, Civic Results of Denver and LiveWell Wheat Ridge (LWWR) have worked to improve pedestrian safety for the children of Jefferson County School District. Physical activity and healthy eating are complex behaviors that are linked to the environments in which we live, work and play. While education is one part of the solution, community-level involvement to improve the environments where people make choices about what to eat and how to get active are necessary to improve overall health and well-being What Can You and Your School Do? International Walk to School Day: LWWR worked to coordinate Walk to School Day with each Wheat Ridge Elementary school, the Wheat Ridge Police Department, Wheat Ridge and Arvada Fire Departments, Jeffco Food Service Department and the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center. In 2007 a total of 531 students participated in Walk to School Day. School Crossing Guard Training Program: Jefferson County School District has done extensive work on setting up risk management standards for the district's voluntary crossing guard training program. Jenelle Vierzbicki of Jeffco Loss Control Management designed a program that schools can use if they would like to establish a local program of supervision on the streets surrounding their school or in the parking lot during student pick-up and drop-off times. LiveWell Wheat Ridge provides schools with crossing guard gear such as, street striping, cones, signage, and vests. *Volunteer opportunities* Walking School Bus: LWWR is interested in starting a walking school bus in local Wheat Ridge and Edgewater neighborhoods. A walking school bus consists of parents/volunteers who walk through the surrounding school neighborhoods picking up children on the way to school. Building community, school and parental support are essential for the success of such a program. *Volunteer opportunities* School Walking Audits: Charlier Associates, Inc. located in Boulder, CO was brought in to perform walking audits at Wilmore-Davis, Stevens, Pennington, Vivian and Compass Montessori Elementary. The walking audits accessed surrounding sidewalks, street crossings, bicycle facilities, trails, greenways, and pedestrian access, as well as school site traffic calming. Principals and parents where provided with the results and recommendations obtained from the audit. LWWR will work with the schools to make affordable changes to increase walking and biking to school. Bicycle Safety Rodeos: In partnership with Exempla Lutheran, Wheat Ridge Cyclery and the Wheat Ridge Police Department, LWWR conducts bike safety rodeos at Wheat Ridge and Edgewater Elementary schools. Children are provided and fitted with helmets, bike tune-ups and the opportunity to ride through a bicycle obstacle course. Schools currently participating: Lumberg, Edgewater, Vivian, Pennington, Compass Montessori, Stevens and Wilmore-Davis. For more information on LiveWell Wheat Ridge and to get involved, please go to www.wheatridge.livewellcolorado.com or contact Ashley DePaulis, at 303-709-0106 or e-mail her adepaulis@gmail.com.