Oregon completes first Safe Routes to School project in OhioWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The City of Oregon and Oregon Schools completed the first Safe Routes to School program in Ohio and continue to promote getting students to school safely as part of the statewide effort coordinated by the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Safe Routes to School encourages and enables children in grades K-8 to walk or ride bikes to school safely as part of the statewide program being promoted by Ohio first lady Karen Kasich, according to Julie Walcott, Safe Routes to School program manager for ODOT.
The program has reached approximately 1.2 million students in 3,000 schools across the state since it began in 2007, reported Walcott at the 2012 Transportation Summit held in Toledo March 30.
“The future is getting our kids to school safely,” Edward O’Reilly chairman of TMACOG’s Transportation Improvement Committee, said at the summit.
Walcott and O’Reilly participated in a panel discussion at the summit about making safe routes to schools work in Ohio.
The City of Oregon in collaboration with Oregon Schools got involved in the Safe Routes to School program almost upon its inception. Oregon was awarded a grant for $150,000 in October 2008 to begin a sidewalk construction project on Starr Avenue around Starr Elementary and Fassett Middle schools where there was a lack of sidewalks.
Rodney Shultz, deputy city engineer for the City of Oregon since 1999, helped secure funding and led the joint effort by the city with Oregon Schools for new sidewalks, signage and traffic signals.
The city received another grant for $240,000 in 2009 for new sidewalks on Pickle Road to connect with Coy Elementary School, a traffic signal and pedestrian crosswalks at Pickle and Coy roads in Oregon. Another $10,000 grant in 2010 helped pay for flashing lights at Fassett Middle School, Shultz reported.
In 2011, Oregon used another grant of $25,000 for enhanced crosswalks, new signage and flashing lights in front of Cardinal Stritch High School and Kateri Catholic Academy.
Sara Shaw, DARE and resource officer for Oregon Schools and Kateri Academy, goes into classes to teach students about bicycle and pedestrian safety. She is conducting bicycle safety education for K-4th-graders this spring and is leading Safe Walker Days to school at Oregon Schools and Kateri.
“I help to bring a law enforcement element to it because I’m with the students in my official role so I’ve become part of the program,” said Shaw.
Oregon will hold a Bike Rodeo May 7 at Pearson Metropark that is open to children of all ages. Sponsors are encouraging families to come together to participate in activities that include a family fun ride through the park led by park rangers.
Oregon Schools will participate in National Bike to School Day on May 9 and National Walk to School Day in October, Shaw reported. She estimates that they have reached about 2,500 students with the safety programs.
ProMedica Children’s Hospital has become involved in promoting bike and pedestrian safety through the programs in Oregon. ProMedica will provide helmets to bikers who don’t have them and properly fit helmets for other students as part of Bike to School Day.
Gina Veres, injury prevention specialist with ProMedica Children’s Hospital, is the coordinator for the Safe Routes to School non-infrastructure programs in the City of Oregon. She has conducted safety programs for Safe Kids Greater Toledo during the past nine years.
ProMedica is bringing the Distracted Driver Simulator through ODOT to the Oregon Fest on Sunday, May 20, so people can try the simulator at the annual event.
“People don’t realize that taking their eyes off the road for a couple of seconds can create a dangerous situation. This new tool in the state is perfect to bring to the community and help educate drivers to be more aware of children walking or biking to school,” Veres said.
Schultz, Shaw and Veres participated in the panel discussion about the local Safe Routes to School projects at the transportation summit. Other programs are being held or planned in Swanton, Sylvania and Toledo.
Sarah Bucher, another panelist and director of healthy living for the YMCA/JCC of Greater Toledo, reported that agency’s involvement in the Walking School Bus program with Toledo Public Schools promotes having groups of students walking to school together with a parent leading them and another parent at the rear of the group.
The Walking School Bus program is part of Live Well Greater Toledo, an effort led by the YMCA/JCC to enhance infrastructure for safety, increase availability of healthier foods in schools, and improve access to fruits and vegetables and physical activities for local students, Bucher reported.
The program is conducting an outreach program seeking volunteers for the Walking School Bus effort. Interested parties may apply by calling Sherman School in Toledo at (419) 671-6550.