In cooperation with communities across the state to make walking and bicycling to school a safe and routine activity once again, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is directing more than $4 million in federal transportation funds as part of the department’s Safe Routes to School program.
In this first year of funding, ODOT is awarding $2.6 million to 15 communities for infrastructure projects, including pedestrian crossing signals, completing sidewalks, building small pedestrian bridges and improving signage. ODOT is also awarding $167,000 to five communities to develop educational materials, provide encouragement programs, and help municipalities with enforcement programs.
An additional $1.2 million will go to 87 communities to develop School Travel Plans, a required outline of how local communities will encourage both parents and children to travel by means other than a motor vehicle or bus to and from school. This is accomplished by reducing individual car trips, increasing walking and bicycling and by making the walking and bicycling environment safer.
In 1969, national statistics showed that half of all students walked or bicycled to school. Today, however, fewer than 15 percent of all school trips are made by walking or biking; instead, more than half of all children arrive at school in private automobiles.
This decline in walking to school has had not only an adverse effect on traffic congestion and air quality around schools, but evidence has shown that children who lead sedentary lifestyles are at risk for a variety of health problems.
Safety issues are a big concern for parents, who consistently cite traffic danger as a reason why their children are unable to bike or walk to school.
ODOT’s Safe Routes to School Program makes federal funding available for a wide variety of programs and projects, from building safer street crossings to establishing programs that encourage children and their parents to walk and bicycle safely to school.
A complete list of awards and additional information about ODOT’s Safe Routes to School Program can be found online at www.dot.state.oh.us/SafeRoutes.