Thursday, February 11, 2010

Safe Routes to School Expands to Fair Haven, Foreshadows Citywide Approach

Elizabeth Benton's excellent article on the Safe Routes to School Program, a Federal program that will be implemented at a school in Fair Haven beginning this year, was published today by the New Haven Register.

The work reported on here builds upon the extensive public involvement in the Fair Haven traffic calming master plan, completed in 2008 with assistance from the City of New Haven and the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. That process resulted in a series of very well-attended public meetings and "walkabouts" with Dan Burden, and in fact was one of the key events resulting in the creation of the citywide New Haven Safe Streets Coalition (PDF here).

The Fair Haven implementation, combined with the increased national focus on how the built environment plays a critical role in obesity prevention and child health, has sparked an interest in the program within New Haven's other neighborhoods. For example, Elm City Cycling's 2010 Bicycle Plan recommends gradually expanding Safe Routes to School to other schools in New Haven.

Program Promotes Walking to School, New Haven Register, 2/11/09

By Elizabeth Benton, Register Staff
(Copyright New Haven Register)

NEW HAVEN — Fair Haven School gym teacher Travis Gale estimates as many as half of his students, from kindergarten to eighth grade, are obese.

And of the 650 kids that attend Fair Haven School, only about 250 walk to school, he said. “It’s a problem,” he said. “Students are more into the video games. And the environment I teach in, the parks aren’t playable or possibly not open. They need more exercise in their life.”

Gale has been part of a team pushing for safer walking routes to school in Fair Haven, spearheaded by former Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale. After almost two years of work, the team has secured a $477,000 federal Safe Routes to School grant, which will be used to improve walking infrastructure around the school, including new sidewalks and crosswalks along Grand Avenue and Exchange Street and two pedestrian islands on Grand Avenue at the intersections with Bright and Atwater streets.

“This summer, some very significant and aggressive traffic calming infrastructure remodeling is going to happen on Grand Avenue,” Sturgis-Pascale said.

The Safe Routes to School program originated in Denmark in the 1970s as the country looked for ways to reduce the number of children killed walking and bicycling to school. The effort has since expanded internationally, and in 2005, Congress created a National Safe Routes to School program, which included $612 million in grants to improve walking routes near schools. Of that, $16 million was set aside for Connecticut schools.

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said the grant ties into the city’s broader Street Smarts campaign, aimed at improving safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

“As part of our Street Smarts campaign that launched a year and a half ago, we are committed to increasing awareness and making improvements in our infrastructure so that pedestrians, cyclists and motorists safely share New Haven streets,” DeStefano said. “This grant helps us advance this effort in Fair Haven, providing improved opportunities for children and their families to walk to school.”

According to Gale, there is currently one crosswalk on Grand Avenue in front of the school, manned by a crossing guard. But there is nothing to help children cross other nearby intersections.

In addition to the infrastructure improvements, Gale said he is considering starting a “walking train” this spring, where teachers and adults would meet children on nearby street corners and walk to school together. “This has to be partnered with educational and outreach programs,” said Sturgis-Pascale. “There are plenty of kids that live within one mile of the school who could walk to school. We hope to capture that, those children, and turn them from bus riders (and) children who are dropped off into walkers and cyclists,” she said.

1 comment:

leecruz said...

As a matter of record it should be mentioned that this effort began in Chatham Square Neighorhood where under the leadership of then Alder Erin Stugis Pascale the residents collaborated with the City Traffic Department and the Board of Education on the first "Walk to School Day" in October of 2007 at Clinton Avenue School. This was reported on Channel 8 News and in the New Haven Independent

Thanks to residents like Gerda Genece and many others the community raised the funds for a match-grant by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven which in turn prompted City participation in the traffic study.

This is a great example of the power of organized community. To stay up to date on how residents of Chatham Square Neighborhood are reducing crime by building community in our neighborhood visit: