Discontinued sidewalks, poor sight lines, non-ADA compliant curb ramps, lack of bicycle facilities and speeding traffic are just some of the hazards that children can face as they try to walk or bike to school.
Live Healthy Vineland, an extension of the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Vineland (NJPHK-V), the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA and the Vineland Health Department are working with the Vineland Engineering Department and Cross Country Connection TMA to identify such infrastructure flaws in the built environment surrounding Vineland schools. Pinpointing these hazards is an important step in preparing a school travel plan and applying for funding to make walking and biking safer activities.
A Safe Routes to School Travel Plan identifies flaws in the existing built environment that inhibit safe bicycling and walking to and from school. Remedies are prescribed, such as the installment of traffic calming devices, construction of sidewalks and bike lanes, or the refurbishment of existing bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Travel plans consider community needs, student travel patterns, vehicular crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists, and other information pertaining to a student’s commute. These plans also outline programs a school can implement to educate and encourage safe bicycling and walking. They can serve as the basis for applying for grant funding to improve the environment around schools.
The travel plan created for Sabater Elementary in 2013 helped NJPHK-V and its partners secure a Safe Routes to School grant to fund major infrastructure improvements on the roadways surrounding the school.
Three more Vineland schools now have travel plans—Veterans Memorial Intermediate, Max Luechter Elementary, and Landis Intermediate—and a plan for D’Ippolito Elementary is in the works. “Within three years, we hope to create travel plans for all 12 Vineland schools,” said David Calderetti, NJPHK-V project manager.
The travel plans can move infrastructure improvements forward. “Often, a municipality may have earmarked an area near a school as needing improvement, but it lacks the funds to change the environment. With a school travel plan in hand, funding opportunities can be explored through the Department of Transportation,” said Calderetti. The travel plan shows that the school and community are committed to promoting walking and biking and creating safe routes to the school. He credits Chelsea M. Welch, healthy schools champion at Vineland City Health Department, for convening all Vineland City departments to make safe routes a priority.
Each of the schools with travel plans are proponents of walking and biking. While they await the opportunity for infrastructure improvement, they are educating children and parents about pedestrian safety, championing walk-to-school days, presenting bike rodeos, and promoting the health benefits of walking and biking.SHARE: