Rachael Hodyno, a Brickell-area mom stopped walking her preschool-age son to school last year. It was a very easy and convenient. She could even quickly pick up groceries across the street from the school and walk home.
"I finally gave up trying for one reason: CRAZY BRICKELL DRIVERS," Hodyno wrote in an email. "Crosswalks are ignored, drivers roll into a right on red, and the constant construction often robbed us of sidewalks. Too risky, too many close calls. Brickell is a pedestrian nightmare."
LEARN MOREWalk and Bike to School Day - Safety information, walkability & bikability evaluation forms, parent surveys and tips to continuing active transportation all year
Safe Routes to School - Its funding portal page lists mini-grant opportunities, local, private and federal funding. Call Florida Advocacy Organizer Carol Pulley, 850-934-0742, or email carol @ saferoutespartnership.org
Florida Bicycle Association
Evaluate your city - As a bicycle-friendly community.
At the Green Mobility Network's Safe Routes To School table at the recent Children's Trust Family Expo, South Florida parents said they wanted to make that daily commute an active one. Streets are too dangerous was a frequent refrain.
Many parents whose children walk or bike to school see it as a privilege and a benefit.
"We live close to my sons' elementary school, and we walk to school and back," said Melanie Bush of Plantation. "I love this time in the morning and afternoon. It forces both my son and I to exercise [with] the dog. While he moans and groans, my son is aware of the benefits of walking."
Cycling dad Dave Kelly likes the way a bike ride to school prepares his kids for the day. "The kids get the blood flowing and wake up," said Kelly. "The ride is much less stressful than driving in. We cut through the University of Miami campus which is quiet at that hour."
The National Center for Safe Routes to School notes this is becoming rarer:
- In 1969, 48 percent of children age 5 to 14 usually walked or bicycled to school.
- In 2009, 13 percent of children age 5 to 14 usually walked or bicycled to school.
- In 1969, 41 percent of children in grades K–8 lived within one mile of school; 89 percent of them usually walked or bicycled to school.
- In 2009, 31 percent of children in grades K–8 lived within one mile of school; 35 percent of them usually walked or bicycled to school.
SRTS puts a heavy emphasis on safety and how our built environment links to active transportation. The federal SRTS program filtered funds down to communities through state departments of transportation. That has changed.
"Since the federal SRTS funding program was eliminated, projects for sidewalks, intersection improvements, crosswalk signing and markings around schools will have to compete with other projects that are eligible under the new Transportation Alternatives Program that was created in the same legislation that removed the SRTS program," explained David Henderson Miami Dade County Bicycle Pedestrian specialist.
"Although there is lots of good national advocacy, I think the best thing the average parent can do is work through the principal and PTA to identify and fix problems that affect the students at their school."
Dina Weinstein is coordinating the Miami-based Green Mobility Network's Safe Routes to School program.