SOUTH BURLINGTON Transportation leaders in Chittenden County are working to establish more safe routes for kids to use while walking to school. An Open House will be held on Sept. 26 at the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization offices at 30 Kimball Ave., Suite 206, South Burlington. The open house runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
In a coordinated effort between regional and state affiliates, the Safe Routes Initiative aims to get more children walking and biking to school. VTrans and the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization (CCMPO) are working together on the state and regional levels, respectively, and Local Motion is working under contract with seven Chittenden County schools, and hopes to get more schools involved.
Establishing the routes is only part of the Safe Routes to Schools program, said Peter Keating, who works for the CCMPO. They need to be made safe for kids and their parents in order to be used.
In addition to the physical and economic benefits of walking and/or biking to school, there are other reasons for schools to get involved with the safe routes initiative. For example, schools can get information on how to organize a walking school bus, a walking path where children can join each other on their way to school. Planning help to identify safety improvements is also available. Economic benefits are also available, as schools that enter into the safe routes program can become eligible for sidewalk infrastructure funds. Keating noted several other benefits of providing safe walking routes.
Fewer cars in the school drop-off zone, reducing conflicts and potential accidents, he said. The confidence boost to kids from getting to school on their own. Healthier kids, reduced obesity rates, kids arriving at school ready to learn and finally the reduced transportation costs for schools.
The International Walk to School Week, held from Oct. 1 to Oct. 5, will serve as a complementary event to the safe routes agenda. The Hinesburg Community School and CP Smith also hold Walking Wednesdays.
The Safe Routes Initiative is a federal program that ha been in existence for several years. The initiative has two mains focus areas. One is to provide education and outreach for school age children on the benefits of walking and/or biking to school.
In order to do this, obstacles need to be identified and addressed, said Keating. From unsafe routes to lack of sidewalks, and the culture of car transport, or lack of traffic law enforcement.
The other focus area is the infrastructure program, which aims to provide better quality paths and sidewalks that can safely transport kids, said Keating.
For more information, contact Peter Keating at email@example.com or Pam Mathews at firstname.lastname@example.org .