The city’s successful Street Smarts program received a shot in the arm late last week in the form of a $562,000 grant to continue efforts to make it easier and safer for Davis children to walk or bike to school.
The funding — part of $300 million in Safe Routes to School grants awarded by the state’s Active Transportation Program — will be used to increase the number of children using alternative transportation to get to school.
The city’s Street Smarts program has been working toward that goal for several years, and has made broad strides under program manager Rachel Hartsough. Efforts have included everything from the Active4.me program that allows kids to scan a bar-coded tag when they arrive at school — and which then sends parents a text or email that their children have arrived safely — to bike rodeos, helmet fittings and more. Other activities have included incentives to increase biking and walking to school, particularly during May is Bike Month.
Additionally, last year’s audits, which looked at how children are arriving at school and what barriers or problems exist for biking and walking, already have resulted in the creation of individual maps for each Davis school suggesting the best routes. Completed maps may be viewed at www.djusd.net/saferoutes and maps will be sent home with students in the fall.
Funding for current Street Smarts programs — also through a Safe Routes to School grant — ends in 2015. Now, those programs will be able to continue and expand for another three years.
“It is exciting to think about all of the great things that this money will fund in Davis over the next few years,” Hartsough said.
Among those things will be a formal Safe Routes to School program focused on increasing the number of children — and their families — who bike or walk to school and extracurricular activities.
Grant funding also will provide a stipend for a parent or staff member at each of the public elementary and junior high schools to act as a liaison between the city of Davis, the Davis Joint Unified School District and Davis Bicycles! — supporting program goals at each school site.
Hartsough said she hopes the stipends will help in securing liaisons at each school site — something that has been a challenge at some schools in the past.
Grant funding also will be used to update technology used in the Active4.me scanning program and for new traffic signs and signals to enhance traffic calming near schools and at targeted crossings.
Several aspects of the new Safe Routes to School program will be administered in partnership with Davis Bicycles!
The city of Davis and Davis Bicycles! have long partnered through the Davis Bicycles! Schools Committee, organizing bike rodeos and Loopalooza, implementing the Active4.me scanning programs, safety events and May is Bike Month activities, all of which will continue.
That ongoing collaboration, Hartsough said, has led to “meaningful ways to strengthen school-based involvement in (safe routes to school) activities in the Davis community.”
Trish Noble, a Davis Bicycles! board member who chairs the schools committee, said, “We at Davis Bicycles! are very grateful to city staff, particularly Rachel Hartsough, for working so hard to make this a strong proposal. We can’t wait to get started and look forward to a strong partnership with the city and the district to make active transportation a lifelong habit for families in Davis.”
For more information, visit http://street-smarts.cityofdavis.org.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy