To the editor:
These days, fewer children reap the health benefits of walking or bicycling to school. Distance, safety concerns, parent work schedules and fewer crossing guards are some of the reasons cited. This fall, several local communities applied for Safe Routes to School funding to address this issue. Safe Routes to School is an initiative of the Department of Transportation designed to encourage walking and bicycling to school.
Walking or bicycling to school helps children to get a portion of the daily physical activity they require to build strong bodies and maintain a healthy weight. With one-third of our children overweight or obese, efforts to increase walking and bicycling are important to our children's current and future health.
Safe Routes to School programs promote healthy and safe transportation to and from school. Safety concerns are addressed through infrastructure improvements such as adding sidewalks, making crosswalks more visible or installing traffic lights or signs. Non-infrastructure improvements include education such as teaching children traffic safety skills or driver education. Stepped-up enforcement of motor vehicle regulations in school zones can be a component, or establishing "walking school buses," where one or more adults walk to school with a group of students.
Safe Routes to School funding applications are only successful when municipalities collaborate with other organizations and the community. The local recipients of this Safe Routes to School funding worked with school districts, public health, law enforcement and community members to evaluate existing infrastructure, brainstorm potential solutions and develop plans to work cooperatively to implement infrastructure improvements and provide educational components.
Healthy Schools NY would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the communities in our area that were successful in their bid to secure Safe Routes to School funding: Peru, Malone, Saranac and Saranac Lake. Your success is a measure of the substantial effort and dedication that went into your respective applications and your desire to provide students with safe options for healthy activity.
Principal public health educator
Healthy Schools NY
Clinton County Health Department