DOT Safe Routes program starts project in Macon

The Georgia Department Of Transportation's Safe Routes to School program was the focus of a program at a Macon school on Oct. 2. The event began at 7:20 a.m. at Riley Elementary School and ended with a pep rally at 8:15 A.M. The project was funded in response to statewide trends of growing roadway dangers to children on foot and bicycle. Kelechi Nwosu, Georgia DOT Safe Routes to Schools coordinator, said, "SRTS was also designed to promote a healthy, active lifestyle for children. We want them to get moving. So much of what our kids today do is done inside, from a sedentary position." In 2001, the State Transportation Board issued a resolution recognizing the department could have "a direct impact on transportation and safety around schools, as well as overall quality of life" by supporting a Safe Routes to School project.
Another goal of the Safe Routes to School program is to promote cleaner air and help mitigate congestion in and around schools. "In the early 60's, over 70 percent of school aged children walked or biked to school," Nwosu said. "Now less than 15% of students walk or bike." Additionally, an ever increasing number of today's children are car riders. The demonstration project which began in November 2003, will focus on potential infrastructure improvements, law enforcement strategies, safety education and activities that encourage walking and bicycling. The non-infrastructure portion of the program focuses on the essential 5-E's -- engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation. All prospective school/community applicants are encouraged to establish and maintain the 5-E's in order to enroll and receive SRTS services free of charge. This year's International Walk to School started Oct. 8, with month-long activities and events to allow communities the flexibility to organize their Walk to School events. More than 38 Georgia schools and several countries -- including the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States -- signed up to participate. International Walk to School Day began in 2000, following several successful walk to school campaigns in the late 1990s.

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