Next week we again become witness to that parade of idling cars in front of schools as parents line up, drop off and pick up their kids to and fro school each weekday.
In the 1970s, nearly half the kids in America walked or rode their bikes to school.
Flashforward to 2018, and you’ll find most kids have forgone their walking shoes and bike pedals to instead ride shotgun with their parents to school.
Recent national studies show that less than 13 percent of kids ride their bikes or walk to school.
As a result, youth obesity has tripled, traffic congestion in residential areas has significantly increased and kids are reportedly losing their sense of independence.
That’s according to a national Safe Routes to School study. City Planner Maddie Phillips echoed similar concerns at this week’s city council meeting, adding that, as kids bike or walk themselves to school less and less, they are losing sense of being a steward of one’s own self.
Reasons for this shift ranges from parents feeling like the jaunt to school is too dangerous because of traffic and crime concerns, to issues with the lack of proper infrastructure – meaning not enough sidewalks, designated crossings and safe routes to school.
As such, this week, Creswell city council advised City Administrator Michelle Amberg to send a letter of intent aimed to create infrastructure improvements in the city – specifically for ameliorating ”Safe Routes to School” for walkers and bikers.
Safe Routes to School refers to efforts that improve, educate, or encourage children safely walking or biking to school, and was identified in House Bill 2017 as a high priority and allocated funds for infrastructure improvements.
A total of $1.8 million will be available in this biennium, and $30 million for the next two biennia as competitive grant opportunities for cities and counties, according to a memo presented to council.
Safe routes to school funding is a reimbursement grant opportunity. The task must be at a minimum of $60,000 with a maximum of $2 million. Because Creswell schools are Title 1 schools – which means that 40 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced lunches – the match required is 20 percent. Any project work and contribution made within two years prior to the grant award is an eligible match.
City staff began working with Creswell School District in January 2018 to identify ways for students to get to and from school, as well as identify recommended routes for walking and biking to school.
Maps were drafted to identify where students live, and some of the areas of town that lack infrastructure to safely get them to and from school without driving.
Creswell city staff undertook an evaluation of walking and biking routes throughout the community. Most critical are safe sidewalk and biking connections from areas of the community with high densities of school-aged children to Creswell schools.
Creswell students are limited in their options to safety access school within a half-mile of Creswell School District properties, including Creslane Elementary and Creswell middle and high Schools. This is largely due to incomplete sidewalks and the absence of bike facilities between home and school.
Staff engaged with teachers, parents, students and school administrators to evaluate the safety issues that present barriers to students walking and biking to school.
Through the evaluation, city staff concluded that the primary barriers to school-aged children walking and biking to school include decidicent or unsafe infrastructure that could provide a direct route to school. Safe segments exist in newer development throughout Creswell, but often do not provide complete sidewalks nor adequately marked signed crossings.
Students face challenges in getting to school safely due to problems crossing a major highway, walking along local streets that have no sidewalks and traveling unprotected lanes or buffers on a bicycle.
Routes were recommended for students to walk or bike within a half mile distance from the school. There are a limited number of safe of convenient roads, however, and many routes require students to travel on the busiest roads, since these larger roads tend to provide sidewalks where smaller streets do not.
Immediate priorities for providing a safe way for most students to walk or bike to school include the improvement of the following:
– Crossing Oregon Avenue at 5th, 7th and 10th streets;
– Crossing A Street at 7th and 10th streets;
– Sidewalks along South 7th Street between Creswell Middle School and Mary Neil Lane;
– Crossing North 5th Street at Morse Avenue;
– Sidewalks on A Street from 3rd to 1st streets;
– Crossing 1st Street at A Street;
– Formalize access points at Cherry Lane, Cedar Court and Meadow Lane; and
– A publically accessible multi-use path that connects Niblock Lane to A Street on the west side of the school district property to ease public access.
Amberg must submit a letter of intent to apply for the funding by Aug. 31. The grant application will come before council in October prior to the submitted deadline, which is Oct. 15.
A collaborative effort to develop Safe Routes to School priorities will result in a safe routes to action plan to highlight why each project is identified as a priority. This action plan will be submitted to council as an addendum to the Transport System Plan for council adoption in an upcoming council meeting.
The next city council meeting is set for Monday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend.