Tired of the morning commute to school in the car?
Biking and walking to our city schools is a benefit to us all: children (and adults) get some physical activity, it is environmentally friendly and it helps minimize dangerous car congestion around schools.
Living near my local public school I can tell you that the dropoff car line is long and hectic. But where can a Philadelphia parent start if they want their neighborhood school to have less car traffic and become more alternative-transportation friendly?
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia houses a Safe Routes Philly program designed to encourage Philadelphia families to bike and walk to school.
The program has been making headway in city schools since 2010 when it was spearheaded by the coalition’s education director, Megan Rosenbach.
“Safe Routes Philly has trained over 200 health and physical education teachers to deliver our pedestrian and bicycle safety lessons, which have reached over 75,000 Philadelphia children,” Rosenbach said.
Wondering where the funding for this program is coming from when the city can barely afford regular staff at our schools? The two main funding streams for the program come from the City’s health department and from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
These funding sources allow for SRP to bring high-quality transport programming to our city schools without costing our schools more.
“We help school leaders and parents navigate safety challenges around schools, including traffic congestion before and after school, dangerous street crossings, and unsafe pedestrian and vehicle behaviors,” said Waffiyyah Murray, a coordinator at Safe Routes Philly.
She added the group has assisted 18 schools by offering professional walkability audits and will conduct three more walkability audits during the 2014-15 academic year at schools near high-crash intersections.
Murray and Rosenbach also shared some incredible city school success stories that show how biking to school can work.
Meredith School located in the Queen Village was awarded $10,000 to implement various activities that will increase the number of students walking and biking to school, including the launch of a Safe Routes Ambassador Program.
The grant spurred a group of eight parents to form a bicycle committee to plan opportunities for children to bicycle. The parent bicycle committee organized several events in spring 2013 such as Bike to School Days and “Learn to Ride” class at the school.
At Meade Elementary, over 90 percent of children walked to school and while many expressed interest in biking, most did not own bikes.
That is, until the school’s music teacher received a batch of used bikes from a suburban police station. He fixed them up for students to use and a grant from Safe Routes funded a 10-week after school bicycle club at the school.
The club members learned how to maintain a bike, adjust brakes and repair a chain. After they completed the program the students received a safe-riding accessories like a U-lock, bike lights, a bell and a water bottle.
The Meade Bicycle Club has operated for three seasons, with plans for a fourth in spring 2015.
For more information on Safe Routes Philly programming email Waffiyyah Murray.