TRANSPORTATION AND CITY PLANNING – Urban planning decisions have a tremendous impact on a child’s opportunity for contact with the natural world, determining whether a park is located within walking distance from home, whether a stream is left as a wildlife corridor or pushed underground in a culvert, and whether it is possible to walk or bike safely to school and neighborhood destinations. These strategies would improve access to the natural world:
Strategy #2: Encourage the implementation of Safe Routes to School programs.
Safe Routes to School is a program to improve safety and encourage more children, including children with disabilities, to safely walk and bicycle to school.
Since December of 2007, the Ohio Department of Transportation has awarded $21 million in Safe Routes to School Funds. Over 150 communities in Ohio will benefit from these funds aimed at making it safer for students in grades k-8 to get to school using active transportation. Projects funded range from school crossing improvements to bicycle education programs. Not only does this program increase students’ activity level to help stem the childhood obesity epidemic, but it also helps reduce school transportation costs – a great example of solving multiple problems with our funding dollars. Details about Safe Routes to School.
And, this successful program is slated for improvement. In order to be eligible for SRTS funding, communities must first develop a school travel plan. Currently ODOT helps communities by funding a portion of these plans for up to four schools. They are in the process of developing guidelines that can be used to develop a school travel plan for an entire school district. Ohio will be the first state to develop a procedure that can be replicated in every large school district around the state. Also, over the next two years, ODOT is launching a major comprehensive educational initiative for Safe Routes to School and Share the Road campaigns.