Lincoln Walks to School
Safe Routes Nebraska is a program of the Nebraska Department of Roads. The program is focused on promoting physical activity and improving health, making routes to school safer, and reducing traffic congestion around schools by encouraging more students to walk or bike to school.
Currently, fewer than 25% of the students district-wide walk or bike to school at the elementary and middle school levels. In surveys done of parents related to this issue, parents respond that they do not allow their children to walk to school because of a variety of safety issues. Some parents worry that the traffic on their child’s way to school is dangerous. They cite speed, inadequate traffic regulations, and distracted drivers as their primary concerns. Some parents think that crime is the determining factor in their decision to drive their kids to school. Many parents are just afraid to let their children walk or bike to and from school. Many parents complain that there is just not a safe route to their school.
In some cases, the health of the child is a contributing factor to whether or not they walk or bike to school. We feel that this should be included as a walking/biking condition. The growing obesity epidemic contributes to a student’s decision as to whether they want to walk or bike to school. A student that finds this type of activity difficult may decide that it is easier for a parent to give them a ride.
Teach a Kid to Fish envisions creating a community solution to the epidemic of childhood obesity. As such, we feel that it is a vital part of our mission to work with the entire community to enable and encourage students to engage in the activity of walking to school as often as possible.
• Increased number of LPS students walking and biking safely to school.
• Students/parents/educators understand the importance of daily physical activity.
• Ensuring the safety of children is everyone’s role.
• Environmental policy- new maps are established, the project expands on the walkability audits and sidewalk database work of the health department, and infrastructure priorities are developed based on the outcomes of the grant. There will also be a community advisory board for safe routes with members representing schools, health, and city planning.
There will be district wide offerings of a Lincoln Walks to School builder which includes training sessions on how to integrate a safe routes program into your school, including finding a champion, a walking school bus toolkit, safety trainings and resources for select schools. The plan being that eventually the schools will take it on and sustain it.
Engineering will be addressed as we take a new look at the current city plans for safe routes to school. We have noticed over the past four or five years that many of these suggested routes are outdated and in some cases, they just do not exist anymore. We will work closely with our partners in the Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department and Lincoln Public Schools to create and publicize a walkability audit that could be used by parents to determine a safe route to school.
Students will play a big part in disseminating and sharing information from their unique perspective as we work with them to create and publish a student newsletter that focuses on health and safety. This newsletter will explore many different topics from safe routes to school to healthy food choices. We will also work with our various partners to bring a variety of health and safety programs to select elementary and middle school students at LPS. Bike safety seminars will be offered. Pedestrian safety programs will be offered. Programs that focus on a variety of healthy lifestyle choices will also be a part of these various educational tools.
Nine elementary schools and two middle schools will be chosen as pilot programs as we work to bring greater health and safety programming to LPS on a permanent and sustainable basis.
Students will be encouraged to engage in healthy lifestyle choices such as walking and biking to school in a variety of ways. We believe that the most important way to encourage these healthy practices is to engage peers that already have made this choice and enlist them as “champions” at their schools. An integral part of the Teach a Kid to Fish strategic plan is to enlist champions at each and every school in Lincoln. These champions will help us to understand what the school specific issues are and how we can best address those issues on a school by school basis. This is an important part of our community solution. These champions will also help to disseminate information and encouragement through the student newsletter and the offering of incentives to walk and bike to school. Pedometers offered to students to track walking and bike helmets offered to encourage safe biking are good ways to get our message across and encourage kids to walk and bike to school. We will design a 10,000 steps-a-day program that will challenge students to walk 1,750,000 steps over the course of the school year. This is approximately 10,000 steps a day for each day school is in session. Incentives will be offered to students that reach this goal.
Teach a Kid to Fish plans on working with our partners in the mayor’s office and health department to enforce safe driving, especially around schools. We realize that students can also be of help in this realm as they learn about safety to and from school; they can help to pass this information and encouragement on to their parents.