Safe Routes 2 School’s (SR2S) mission is to reduce childhood health diseases such as childhood obesity and childhood diabetes by increasing physical activity such as walking, biking, blading or strolling on the route to school. SDEV kicked off our SR2S program at Bennett Elementary with a Walk to School Day parade in 2008 and followed that event with many other safety initiatives. With the assistance of the parents, SDEV conducted a walking audit of the infrastructure surrounding the school area. We noted cracked and unleveled sidewalks, pot-holes, lack of corner curb cut-outs (handicap ramps on the corners) and lack of traffic signage. This Summer SDEV performed a Walkability Audit with pedestrian expert Dan Burden. The principal, parents and students of the school as well as representatives from the city council president’s office, Michigan Fitness Foundation, MSHDA and local community stake holders participated. Mr. Burden assessed how pedestrian friendly our community is, and made recommendations such as extended sidewalks and/or berms to hinder inappropriate street corner parking. His suggestions will be submitted in the grant application for the school’s action plan.
At the beginning of the 2009 school year, SDEV assisted in the formation of a parent-volunteer safety crossing guard team. With support from the Detroit Police Department (DPD), parent volunteers have been crossing children from street corner to street corner every day during the drop-off and pick-up times of the students. By blocking off certain parts of the street(s) in conjunction with parent volunteers controlling and directing traffic, traffic congestion and aggressive driving has lessened around the school’s area. SR2S is all about promoting healthy physical life style changes such as walking more and driving less. Driving less contributes to better air quality in terms of having fewer vehicles emit less toxic fumes into the air. Walking more increases awareness of community safety issues which is the first step in creating a safer neighborhood.
In 2013, SDEV secured $400,000 from MDOT through the Michigan Fitness Foundation for infrastructure improvements around Bennett Elementary, including defective sidewalk replacement, installing ADA ramps and signage for pedestrian safety. This year, Clippert Academy is also joining the SR2S program, working with SDEV to implement a walking club with the students.