Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cook to Attend Safe Routes to School Conference Later this Month

Here's some good news for transportation in Salem. Councilor-to-be Sally Cook has said that she will be attending the Oregon Safe Routes to School Conference in Eugene later this month.

Highlights of the conference include:
Opening keynote: Race, Class & Equity in: Where to Begin - with the National Partnership's very own Keith Benjamin leading the conversation.

A free evening talk with Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids. "Giving Our Children Freedom & Independence".

Sessions on youth-led campaigns, walk-audits, how to integrate health partners in Safe Routes to School, adaptive bicycling, ways to institutionalize Safe Routes to School through>policy, and more.
There's huge untapped potential here in Salem.

In May's "Bike and walk Challenge," only three Salem-area schools participated:
  • Washington Elementary
  • Harritt Elementary
Three schools only participated also in 2010
In recent years, events in May and October have seemed to average around 3 or 4 schools participating.

One important constraint that readers have pointed out is that the areas around the state with stronger participation rely in no small measure on recent college graduates to teach bicycle safety education classes. Salem is not rich with recent college grads who decide to stick around.

Another reader has mentioned with reference to Grant Elementary that as a magnet-type school, it attracts a significant number of students who live far enough away that walking and biking is not at all realistic.

Programming at Hallman Elementary a few years ago ran into additional intersecting cultural, safety, and other factors.

April 2011 draft memo on SRTS
During the process to amend the Transportation System Plan, "Bike and Walk Salem," staff and consultants developed a draft proposal for five schools - Englewood, Hoover, Washington, Faye Wright, and Walker - and this was going to be further refined as a formal Safe Routes plan, but it seems to have gone nowhere. If it was completed, it needs much more visibility; but I believe it went dormant and was not completed.

The reasons Safe Routes programming has not taken off here are multiple and cannot be reduced to a single variable. But that means there is a very great opportunity in Salem to increase formal participation in encouragement projects and the informal daily routines of walking and biking to school. It's all upside.

Having a champion on City Council itself could help assemble the pieces that can put programming on a more secure institutional base and may help allocate formal resources so it's not always so dependent on the vagaries of volunteer interest.

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