Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Communities

December 5, 2007

NIAGARA COUNTY: Officials want safer, walkable routes to school

LOCKPORT — Nationwide, fewer than 15 percent of children walk or ride a bike to school. The rest are bused or driven.

According to a 2004 national consumer survey, it’s not fear of the children falling victim to crime that keeps parents from letting their kids have fresh air and a measure of independence. It’s the fact that school is too far away from home — or parents just don’t trust traffic to yield to their little ones.

The consequence? While vehicle traffic congests school neighborhoods and dirties the air, the kids aren’t getting much-needed exercise.

New York state is aiming to help communities get back to basics with participation in the national Safe Routes To School Partnership. Federal money funneled through the state transportation department will be awarded in communities that pitch plans to make the areas around elementary and middle schools more walker- and biker-friendly.

A state Department of Transportation representative rolled out the basics for interested parties Tuesday at Lockport Town Hall. Among communities that sent representatives were the town, the city, Lockport City School District, the City of Niagara Falls, the villages of Middleport and Barker and the Town of Somerset.

The grant program presents another opportunity for Lockport City School District and its host municipalities to work together on community building, according to district grant writer Rosanna Sandell.

In the program, she sees inspiration — and capital support — for back-to-basics measures that could help change children’s habits, while also making Lockport a more desirable place to live.

“Lockport as a walkable community is a better community,” Sandell said. “This is very exciting to me.”

According to D.O.T. Transportation Analyst Matthew Balling, the Safe Routes to School program will award grants of up to $550,000 next year to schools, municipalities and not-for-profits that pitch construction or educational projects designed to encourage more walking and biking to and from school.

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