What began as a sidewalks infrastructure project along routes to schools in Coeur d’Alene blossomed into something bigger when the city used a small non-infrastructure grant for education and encouragement efforts.
Lakes Middle School and Sorenson Elementary School each have approximately 500 students, and most live within two miles of the school. The schools have recently become magnet schools, and some students live too far to walk or bicycle. Neighborhoods around the schools lacked sidewalks along a route that connects to the schools along a busy street and under a narrow freeway overpass.
In 2007, the Idaho Transportation Department awarded Coeur d’Alene a $100,000 Federal SRTS infrastructure grant to construct 1,000 feet of new sidewalks in neighborhoods north of Lakes Middle School and Sorenson Elementary School. The improvements have led to an increase in the number of students walking to school.
The city also received a $1,600 non-infrastructure grant for education and encouragement programs, and several activities further boosted the numbers of students walking and bicycling to school. A series of public service announcements encouraged people to walk or ride bicycles to work and school all week prior to the Walk to School Days in May and October. Safe Routes to School coordinator Kristin Pomerantz, a substitute teacher who is a volunteer and a member of the city’s Pedestrian/Bicycle Committee, set up education booths at several local events to highlight health benefits of walking and bicycling, organized bicycle rodeos with helmet giveaways to promote safe bicycling, formed walking school buses and promoted a “Share the Road” campaign using magnetic bumper stickers to change attitudes toward pedestrians.
The after-school coordinator at Lake Middle School helped Pomerantz promote the events with workshops about bicycle and skateboard safety, and middle school students developed video announcements about why students should walk and bicycle to school. The videos were broadcast on the school television channel. In art class, students made posters about walking and bicycling.
Throughout the week, teachers asked students how they arrived at school, and in each class, those who walked and bicycled the most won a free pita from local Pita Pit restaurant. Other students who walked or bicycled received bandanas and reflectors with the SRTS logo. The events were broadcast on the city’s web site, through public service announcements and local television.
“The biggest strength has been the efforts of volunteers who stepped forward and spent a lot of their time on Safe Routes to School,” said Monte McCully, Coeur d’Alene Trails Coordinator.
In May and October, more than 100 children participated in Walk to School days at Lakes Middle and Sorenson Elementary schools, and their participation resulted in a noticeable decrease in traffic congestion in front of Lakes Middle on those two days.
A benefit both to and from the SRTS program are partnerships that have been formed and strengthened among several organizations, including the city, police department, School District 271, Idaho Department of Transportation, the Coeur d’Alene Pedestrian/Bicycle committee, Panhandle Health District 1 and Terra Sports, as well as volunteers from each school, the Chamber of Commerce and the North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation.
Coeur d’Alene volunteers intend to continue organizing walking school buses and bicycling activities at schools, making physical improvements near schools and expanding the existing school curriculum to include more pedestrian and bicycle education safety programs for students and parents, according to Josephine O’Connor, SRTS Coordinator for the Office of Highway Operations and Safety with the Idaho Transportation Department.
Coeur d’Alene Trails coordinator
SRTS Volunteer Coordinator