Currently, only 14.2% of children in Lawrence walk or bike to school. The majority of children are driven by their parents, according to survey results compiled by the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.
The reasons vary. Many parents are worried about children crossing busy streets without assistance. They may believe that the school is too far away or that the weather can be too severe. Some are concerned about the danger of potential crime. Many do not believe that the school district even encourages their children to walk or bike on a routine basis.
Chris Tilden, Director of the Community Health division of Douglas County-Lawrence Community Health Department, noted that new grants have allowed expansion of the initiatives for improving community health in Lawrence and the surrounding county. In particular, Community Health has received a $1.3 million grant to promote physical activity, one of five areas of emphasis in the Health Department’s five-year plan, Roadmap to a Healthier Douglas County. One way to reach that physical activity goal for children is to encourage them to walk or bike to school.
Charlie Bryan, Planner in Community Health, reviewed statistics gathered in a recent Lawrence-wide survey to assess the this need and described the initiative developed in response. “Safe Routes to School” hopes to increase biking and walking by 25% over the next five years. The program “uses a comprehensive approach to make walking and biking to school safe and fun for students. In Lawrence, we use Evaluation, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Engineering, and Equity to prioritize Safe Routes decision-making.”
Lawrence Central Rotary will be one of the sponsors of a town hall meeting and safety fair on March 25, 2015, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Liberty Hall to raise awareness of this initiative.