In June, articles in the Akron Beacon Journal highlighted the safety inequity between urban and suburban students that walk or bike to school (you can read them here and here). The topic was picked up by the Atlantic Cities blog, and mentions that “The state (of Ohio) offers no funding assistance for children who walk less than two miles."
However, there is funding assistance, and for Akron, I would like to qualify the above statement with “for now”. The Ohio Department of Transportation announced May 31 that Akron is one of three large school districts awarded $100,000 through the Ohio Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School program to create a district-wide school travel plan (STP) that will evaluate and identify infrastructure and non-infrastructure safety solutions in and around school property for students walking and biking to school. (The other large districts are Toledo and Columbus.)
Simply put, an Ohio school travel plan identifies the people, places and things a community can address to help students safely walk or bike to school. In Ohio it is a required first step to receive future funding to build walking and cycling-friendly streets, add sidewalks, implement safety education programs, start walking school buses, improve enforcement options and more. Ohio has awarded Safe Routes to School funds since 2006, and 216 schools currently have or are working on school travel plans that will help increase safety, improve student health and promote walking and biking to school for students and their families.
Want to learn more about developing a school travel plan for your school? Visit the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School webpage, which includes travel plan guidelines, a list of school travel plans, ODOT district office staff contacts, education materials, lesson plans and other resources to get students walking and cycling to school. For a complete list of 2013 Safe Routes to School awards, click here.
The articles cited are:
June 8, 2013 – “With no ride to school, African-American and poor children disproportionately hit in traffic in urban districts”, Akron Beacon Journal.
June 10, 2013 – “Urban kids often walk to school with little help or safety training”, Akron Beacon Journal.
Kate Moening is the Ohio Advocacy Organizer for the Ohio Safe Routes Network, supported by the Safe Routes Partnership. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Ohio Safe Routes Network website .