By Beth David, Editor
Earlier this summer, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito joined the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) in honoring 13 schools and individuals for their work to promote and train students to bicycle and walk to school in a safe manner as part of the Safe Routes to School Program.
“I am thrilled to see the passion and skills these award winners have exhibited in promoting safe bicycling and walking in their communities,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “The Safe Routes to School program is key to instilling healthy, safe bicycling and walking habits into students at an early age.”
The Program partners with middle and elementary schools to promote and educate students on the best routes to take and on “best practices” for navigating traffic.
In addition to safety trainings, the program helps its 746 partner schools state-wide plan event activities and the program assists in creating walking routes to and from school. Each partner school has a designated outreach coordinator who works with members of the community to customize each program to that community.
“Increasing the number of students that walk and bicycle to school is just one of the many steps MassDOT has taken to reduce traffic congestion and emissions across the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Transportation & CEO Stephanie Pollack.
Two hundred communities in Massachusetts now have Safe Routes to Schools programs for students.
The program also benefits the Commonwealth’s roadway infrastructure and environment.
Fairhaven’s Leroy L Wood School received the “Biking All-Star” award for its “bike bus” program.
Students use the bike path from the center of town to bike to and from school, with adult chaperones. The bike bus, which is every Friday in spring and fall, also used to go from Orchard Street on Sconticut Neck Road to the school, but did not have enough participants to keep it going.
Mat Coes, a Fairhaven Bikeway Committee member who helped start the bike bus, said he is hoping to start it up again. This is the first year the bike bus is entirely parent-led.
“I’m thrilled with the success of the program,” wrote Mr. Coes in an email.
He said he hopes to expand the program to all the schools. The goal is to create safer cycling for everyone.
“There’s no mystery why I’m starting in the schools,” wrote Mr. Coes. “That’s where kids will learn to love to ride. They carry that spirit and awareness on into adolescence, where they become independent riders, and then into their driving life, where they will know to look for bike riders.”
During the ceremony on June 29, 13 awards were presented. The Mass. Safe Routes to School Program is funded by MassDOT and Federal Highway Administration dollars.
For more information on Mass. Safe Routes to School, visit www.mass. gov/massdot/saferoutes, or follow SRTS on Twitter or on Facebook.