It’s that time of year already … the kids are heading back to school and the City of Richmond is encouraging them to take active transportation, including their own two feet.
Studies nationwide show that in elementary school, most U.S. kids get enough exercise, but there is often a steep drop off after that. Whether it’s a heavier homework load, more distractions, or other factors, middle school and high school students are not exercising enough. Encouraging them to sit less and move around more is easy to say. Significant barriers exist for students living in and around the city if roads are unsafe for pedestrians and/or cyclists.
Richmond Fit for Kids is working to change that. The program strives to provide safe routes for students traveling to and from school, to encourage them to choose active rather than passive transportation methods. Activities include walking, bicycling, riding a scooter, roller blades, skateboarding or anything where students are moving, not sitting in a car or bus.
The program has two key components: educating students about how to be alert and defensive when using active transportation; and working with the city’s infrastructure planners to increase roadway safety. The City has embraced a Vision Zero goal; that is, to reduce the number of traffic related fatalities to zero and also reduce the number of traffic related injuries.
This means working to calm traffic near schools, make sure stop signs are easily visible and that crossing guards are available at all critical walkways, to name just a few of the key ways to keep students safe.
This ambitious program will only succeed with partnerships – many of them – including Safe Routes to School programs offered at individual schools and with active community groups such as biking organizations. “We wouldn’t be anywhere without our community partners; they are integral to the work we are doing,” says Fit for Kids spokesperson Tara Fitzpatrick.
Grant monies are available for activities ranging from sidewalk repair to obtaining educational programs to encourage pedestrian and travel safety around schools. For more information and links to specific program features and grant information, visit the Virginia Dept. of Transportation site at www.virginiadot.org/programs/ted_Rt2_school_pro.asp.