Walk to School Day (October 2013) at Leesville Rd. Elementary School in Raleigh
AHA’s Community Connections Work Group has spent much of the last year working on mapping Safe Routes to School (which you may also hear referred to as Active Routes to School) in Wake County and developing a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) prioritization tool for the county. The goal is that this tool could be used by municipalities and schools working together to determine which schools in Wake County are ripe for implementing safe routes to school and which lack infrastructure (such as connected sidewalks and greenways or crossing guard support, for instance) to enable active transportation by students and families.
Some schools have the necessary infrastructure in place, but may need some encouragement and support to get walking and biking to school started. Other schools need infrastructure to enable safe and active routes, and this tool can help identify those with greatest need.
Federal and state Safe Routes to School funding is routed through metropolitan planning organizations like the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), which serves the 12 municipalities in Wake County. A prioritization tool that takes into account current infrastructure, student enrollment, school readiness and other details can serve as a useful tool in seeking funding to complete safe routes infrastructure.
AHA’s Community Connections Work Group began by GIS mapping of the elementary schools in Wake County through partnership with NC State University. Jennifer Baldwin, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for the City of Raleigh Office of Transportation Planning, has guided this work for AHA’s team with all work group members working together to refine the tool and developing a plan for its use.
This summer, AHA is working with CAMPO to merge the existing mapping data with other data to complete that portion of the work. Meanwhile, AHA will work with Wake County Public Schools to survey school principals on walking and biking to school; this data will further efforts to provide pedestrian and bicycling safety curriculum and safe/active routes to school participation at schools. (International Bike to School Day is May 7. Schools in Wake County that are participating are invited to register their event at the www.walkbiketoschool.org site. A wealth of resources is available to plan walk and/or bike to school days, as well as ongoing programs to keep students moving all year long.)
Support for ARTS in Wake County
Schools in Wake County have a new resource in Jennifer Delcourt, the Active Routes to School Regional Coordinator, Region 5, with Wake County Human Services, Public Health Division, who came on board in March. Active Routes to School (ARTS) is a partnership between the N.C. Department of Transportation and the N.C. Division of Public Health that aims to make it easier for elementary and middle school students to walk and bike to school and be physically active at school. Jennifer is among the partners involved in the AHA Community Connections Work Group’s efforts in this area, and will be working to promote Safe Routes to School programs and activities in Wake County
In addition, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership–a national non-profit that focuses on advocacy efforts related to Safe Routes and Complete Streets–has contracted with Don Kostelec to conduct various statewide advocacy efforts in North Carolina in 2014. These advocacy efforts include Safe Routes to School and working with advocates and agencies to promote Complete Streets, joint use agreements, health and social equity related to active transportation. He will host an Advocacy Action Plan Workshop for Safe Routes/Complete Streets on May 1 at NC State’s Institute for Transportation Research offices in Raleigh to reinvigorate statewide advocacy efforts in this area. To participate, you may register here.
AHA looks forward to updating its partners on SRTS progress in Wake County as this work continues to unfold.