Wheels in Motion for Active Transportation to Cary Schools
In 1969, 48% of students 5- to 14-years old usually walked or biked to school. In 2013, however, just 13% walked or biked. There are a lot of reasons for this decline in active transportation to school, including school siting and the distance to schools, safety and traffic concerns and more.
Yet there are also tremendous opportunities at many schools in Wake County to walk and/or bike to school regularly. Walking just one mile to and from school each day is 2/3 of the recommended physical activity a day for children. Check out how two Cary schools are working to have more students walk and roll to school each day safely.
Northwoods Elementary School
Walking and biking to school are popular at Northwoods, a diverse Title I school in Cary. A tall concrete staircase that provides the main pedestrian connection to the school grounds has been a major obstacle for kids with bikes and parents with strollers though, and safety has been a concern as kids try to roll their bikes up or down the steep slope next to the steps.
The Northwoods Elementary PTA began exploring options for improved bike, stroller and wheelchair-friendly access when it started organizing Bike to School Day events two years ago. Northwoods partnered with NC State students for design options, and Wake County Public Schools selected one of the designs. Last month the school sought community support through online voting for grant funding for a proposed path and ramp connection that would allow students to bike to and from school independently and facilitate access by users of wheelchairs and strollers per the approved design.
While the school didn’t secure the votes needed to fund the bike ramp, it was successful in advocating for improved bike-pedestrian safety and raising awareness in the community for this need. The school heard strong support from Cary Town Council members, Town of Cary Planning Department staff, WCPSS officials, Active Routes to School and NCDOT, all who want to help the school find a viable option.
As part of the school’s outreach in seeking votes for funding, students produced several videos about bike safety, helmet fitting and converting a bike into a scooter to learn balance. Schools are invited to use these videos!
Farmington Woods Elementary
Farmington Woods students warming up for the ride to school on May 6, National Bike to School Day.
Students at Cary’s Farmington Woods Elementary walked to school regularly on the second Wednesday of each month this past school year, and they also celebrated their first Bike to School Day on May 6 after holding a Bike Rodeo emphasizing safety skills.
About 20 students rolled to school on bikes or scooters, with parents joining to walk. “Because we’re a magnet school, we didn’t know what to expect, but we were happy with the turnout for our first event,” Jenny Flicker said. Flicker, who is the mother of two boys at the school, joined parents Chris Medsker and Jeff Jeffries and PE Teacher Don Eller in forming a Wellness Committee. Together they planned the bike event to continue promoting active transportation to school. The Bike Rodeo was new as well, and Flicker said both ideas stemmed from encouragement from Jennifer Delcourt, coordinator for Active Routes to School, Region 5, a regional project hosted locally by Wake County Human Services.
“We have had a growing number of students, staff and administration participating in Walking Wednesdays, so we decided to give biking a try,” Flicker said. Safety is the first priority, and that’s why they held the Bike Rodeo first in April. About 150 children came on a Saturday to the school for the rodeo, where children practiced riding on a course set up on the blacktop by Town of Cary police officers. Stations included safety instruction, bike maintenance, helmet fitting and more.
Farmington Woods kicks off its year annually with International Walk to School Day in October. Students and families meet at a “stop” eight-tenths of a mile from the school. For the coming school year, the Wellness Committee has already lined up two satellite park and walk to school locations (local area churches) for daily use next fall to build on this year’s efforts.
Farmington Woods Elementary earned AHA’s Wellness Star award this past April for its ongoing walk/bike to school programs, along with the Brains and Bodies Award at the Bronze level. Information about applying for the Wellness Star award for next year will be available in August.