Ten Southland Schools On-Board Chicagoland Bicycle Federation's Safe CHICAGO - March 9, 2006 - Elementary schools in Lansing, Crete, Dolton,Harvey and Midlothian next month will begin creating safer walking and biking routes - and safer walkers and bicyclists.
CHICAGO - March 9, 2006 - Elementary schools in Lansing, Crete, Dolton, Harvey and Midlothian next month will begin creating safer walking and biking routes - and safer walkers and bicyclists - with the help of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation.
Southland Safe Routes to School, a program recently launched by the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association and the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, is steering the $1 million project. The 10 participating schools are: Diekman Elementary (District 149) in Dolton; Central Park Middle School, Kolmar Elementary and Springfield Elementary (District 143) in Midlothian; Sandburg Elementary, Riley Elementary and Kich Elementary (Districts 152 and 147) in Harvey; Memorial Junior High School (District 158) and Lansing Christian School in Lansing; and the Sixth Grade Education Center (District 201-U) in Crete-Monee.
The program will unfold in two stages:
1. The 10 schools will form teams of administrators, teachers and parents to evaluate the physical walking and biking environment around each school and work with CBF to develop a menu of improvements that can be done.
2. Five schools will be chosen based on need, bicyclist/pedestrian injury rates, municipal cooperation, and existing facilities to receive up to $130,000 for improvements such as bicycle parking, new sidewalks and bike paths, and traffic-calming. Safety instruction and walking and biking encouragement programs such as "Walking School Buses" are included in this stage.
Southland Safe Routes to School covers 80 percent of costs under a grant from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality fund.
Participating school districts and their communities provide the
remaining 20 percent match.
The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation is hiring a Southland Safe Routes to School program coordinator in early April to train school teams and safety instructors. The program provides two years of funding for the position, which is based at SSMMA's East Hazel Crest offices. Melody Geraci, CBF Safe Routes to School program manager, anticipates that training school staff will allow the program to continue and spread to other schools within the district. More details about the position can be found at http://biketraffic.org/jobs.php.
While nearly 85 percent of the funding goes to the five schools most in need, the biggest changes in traffic at pick-up and drop-off times come from education and encouragement, says Geraci. The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation manages the city of Chicago's Safe Routes Ambassadors, and has implemented bicycling and walking classes and encouragement programs at suburban schools, including District 130 in Blue Island since 2002. "With just classes and encouragement, schools can more than double the number of children walking and biking to school," Geraci said.
Chicagoland Bicycle Federation Executive Director Rob Sadowsky said most of the money goes to facilities only because they cost so much, not because they're more important. "$1 million doesn't go very far," Sadowsky said. "So we've made sure every school gets the most bang for the buck with education, encouragement and awareness."
For the communities of Harvey and Dolton, which suffer the two highest crash rates for pedestrian and bicyclists in the Southland, Safe Routes to School offers another effective weapon against speeding and aggressive driving.
"We're very concerned about student safety en route to and from school. Statistics have shown that Dolton is at-risk for child pedestrian crashes," said Barbara Schmitt, Director of Grants for District 149.
Harvey city planner LaTonya Rufus says Safe Routes to School compliments Harvey's ongoing efforts to create safer streets. "Harvey is grateful for the opportunity to provide Safe Routes to School for the children of this community. This project will coincide with Mayor (Eric) Kellogg's Safe Passage initiative that provides additional safety for the trip to school."
Founded in 1985, the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation works to improve the bicycling environment and thereby the quality of life in the region through the promotion of bicycle safety, education and facilities, and by encouraging use of the bicycle as an energy-efficient, economical and nonpolluting form of transportation and as a healthful and enjoyable form of recreation. The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation recognizes the synergies between promoting bicycling and promoting walking and public transit. For more information on the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation,
call (312) 427-3325 or visit www.biketraffic.org.