Michelle Lieberman, AICP, LEED AP, is the Senior Technical Assistance Manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, a nonprofit organization working to improve the quality of life for kids and communities by promoting active, healthy lifestyles and safe infrastructure that supports bicycling and walking. Michelle provides technical assistance to local communities across the U.S., develops reports and other resources, and runs webinars and trainings. Here, she highlights projects and studies that support the aims of Safe Routes to School – that create safe, convenient, and fun opportunities for children to bicycle and walk, reverse the decline in children walking and bicycling to schools, increase kids’ safety, and reverse the nationwide trend toward childhood obesity and inactivity.
“This mixed-use community in Utah provides opportunities for kids and their families to walk and bicycle for daily commuting, as well as for fun. The land use patterns and transportation network allow a large percentage of local students to walk or bicycle to school -- 88%, compared to national average of 13% of students who walk or bicycle to school as of 2009. Every home in Daybreak is within 1/4 mile (a 5-minute walk) of the trail system, and there are 22 miles of trails, giving families ample access to areas for walking and biking.”
“Dutch Kills Green transformed a parking lot surrounded by subway lines and car traffic into a green space with that provides a respite for people walking by. The safety and streetscape improvements, such as pedestrian countdown signals, have helped to reduce pedestrian and cyclist fatalities along Queens Boulevard, known for many years as the “Boulevard of Death,” while increasing bicycle traffic by 12% since 2011 when the project was completed. The new green space and streetscape improvements are located just a block away from Newcomers High School and within walking distance of a charter school, playgrounds, and other popular destinations for children.”
“Replacing an awkward intersection in Normal’s cultural and civic heart with a roundabout has improved safety while also providing a gathering space for the community. The roundabout has 75% fewer conflict points than a conventional 4-way intersection and is expected to reduce crashes by 35%. Children and their families visiting the adjacent Children’s Discovery Museum, the nearby public library and other civic buildings have a safer place to walk and the area is more pleasant for downtown visitors of all ages.”
“Along with safe routes, safe and inviting destinations are key to getting kids and families outside and active. This 1.8-acre public park in lower Manhattan focuses on children as its most important users. Even though it is small in size and surrounded by tall apartment buildings, the park counters nature-deficit disorder by providing open-ended nature play for an estimated 200,000 children a year, with 72% of those observed engaged in physical activity and 69% enjoying constructive, dramatic, and functional play.”
“Where children walk may be as important as whether they walk. This study draws attention to the benefits of being physically active in spaces with trees and plants versus spaces with hardscape and surrounded by buildings. Other studies show that physically active kids have better school attendance and arrive at school more ready to learn. For some children, the combination of walking and being surrounded by green spaces may improve performance in school.”