Safe Routes Program
Step on the Sidewalk, and No One Has to Step on the Gas
Thursday, October 11, 2007
First-grader Anna Brookes walks the two blocks from her Cedar Avenue home to Takoma Park Elementary School each day.
"I really feel like it's better, and it's good exercise," the 6-year-old said. "One of the things I really care about is the environment. I don't like driving."
On Oct. 3, Anna walked a little farther than usual when she joined her father, Adam Brookes, and about 150 other students, parents and school staff at the Takoma Park Municipal Building to celebrate International Walk to School Day by trekking from there to their school on nearby Holly Avenue.
Carrying signs and waving wands adorned with metallic streamers, the group walked along Maple Avenue, turned right onto Philadelphia Avenue and right again onto Holly.
Adam Brookes said one reason he and his daughter regularly walk to school is because it gives them a chance to see neighbors. "It's one of those little things that help root kids to the neighborhood," he said. "It's a small but significant thing to feel part of the neighborhood."
Building community connections while encouraging families to walk is a goal of the city's Safe Routes to School program, which sponsored the walk to Takoma Park Elementary and similar ones to Piney Branch, East Silver Spring and Rolling Terrace elementary schools, said Lucy Neher, the city's Safe Routes program coordinator.
Safe Routes to Schools is a national program aimed at making walking and cycling to school routine and safe. Funding is available to communities through state highway administration grants for education programs and such projects as building sidewalks and crosswalks to improve pedestrian safety.
Takoma Park created its Safe Routes program this year with a $150,000 grant. In addition to the Walk to School Day, workshops on safe cycling and other education events, grant money is funding construction of sidewalks and traffic measures, said David Suls, an associate city planner.
Takoma Park's program includes the four public schools and local private schools John Nevins Andrews and Sligo Adventist.
Other schools in Montgomery County, including Beall, Meadow Hall and Twinbrook elementary schools in Rockville, also participated in Walk to School Day.
Rockville has had a Safe Routes program for five years. The city is using a $435,000 grant to expand its program to target six schools around which speeding and pedestrian safety are concerns. The program will provide more traffic law enforcement, build sidewalks and provide other pedestrian safety measures at Beall, Meadow Hall, Twinbrook, Ritchie Park and College Gardens elementary schools and Julius West Middle School, said Carrie Sanders, the city transportation planner.
"We do have a good amount of missing sidewalks around schools," she said.