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.
“A 2011 study by the University of Utah Department of Family and Consumer Studies concluded that 88% of students in this new mixed-use community walk or bike to school! For the case study, this performance metric was then expanded to include metrics for auto trip and carbon emission reductions, and gallons of fuel saved from walking instead of driving.”
“Margie Ruddick, ASLA, founded Margie Ruddick Landscape to blend ecology with with city planning in gardens, parks, and waterfronts. Winner of the 2013 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in landscape architecture, she has forged a design language that integrates ecology and culture. Dutch Kills Green promotes a new idea of nature in the city, where storm water, wind, sun, and habitat merge within an urban infrastructure to create a more sustainable vision of urban life. ”
“This newly activated space serves a "town green" for Normal, Illinois, a city of under 60,000 people that was experiencing issues with traffic and a declining downtown. The new traffic circle and park with integrated stormwater infrastructure and plenty of gathering space helps to activate the downtown and provides safer pedestrian and traffic circulation. ”
“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.”
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