The federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program acted as a catalyst for New Plymouth, ID, to concentrate its efforts to improve safety and to encourage students to walk and bicycle to school. Before the federal SRTS program, school and city officials were unaware of SRTS and had no programs to encourage or improve the safety of children walking and bicycling to school. As a result of the federal program, the students at two schools in New Plymouth benefited from improved infrastructure on their school route and from pedestrian and bicycle encouragement and education programs.
There was tremendous local support for pursuing federal funding for a local SRTS program. The superintendent, school principals and the school district wrote letters in support of the projects. Teachers said they were willing to devote class time for the in-class surveys. This support contributed to New Plymouth receiving $95,000 in federal SRTS funding from Idaho for SRTS programs.
The majority of funding was used for the construction of sidewalks and lights leading to New Plymouth Elementary School and New Plymouth Middle School. A significant portion of the funding was used to host the city’s first Walk to School event. The event lasted an entire week in September 2007. The goal of the weeklong event was to build enthusiasm for walking to school, and it is hoped that the event will continue each year. Each day, students who usually did not walk were dropped off at a location three blocks away from the school and formed a parade. Along the walk they encountered different celebrity crossing guards, including police officers, firemen, military personnel and high school athletes. On the last day of the event, an assembly was held with the First Lady of Idaho as the guest speaker. The event concluded with a military helicopter landing in the school yard.
The remaining SRTS funding will go toward a bicycle rodeo in June 2008, to be held in conjunction with another town event.
Each day of Walk to School Week averaged 280 student participants and organizers viewed the turnout as a success.
Parent surveys and in-class student tallies were conducted at the beginning of the school year and again after the Walk to School Week. Similar surveying will be done at the conclusion of the school year to determine if Case Study A crossing guard helps children cross the street. Children walking to school. the number of students walking and bicycling to school has increased and if parent and student attitudes about bicycling and walking have changed.
City of New Plymouth Public Works Supervisor