(October 9, 2013) – Students in 65 Portland schools started their day walking and biking to school as part of International Walk + Bike to School Day, with Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick and Transportation Bureau Leah Treat joining over 150 students and community leaders at Maplewood Elementary School.
The city-wide Walk + Bike to School Day events are part of the Bureau of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program, which works with schools, parents and community groups to make walking and biking to schools fun, easy, safe and healthy for all students and families.
Since its start eight years ago, Safe Routes to School has grown from serving eight Portland schools to more than 80, representing almost every public K-8 school in the city.
In that time, the percentage of walking or biking trips to Portland schools has grown from 31 percent to 42 percent today, an increase of 35 percent.
“The Portland Bureau of Transportation is working hard to make our streets safer and easier for students to walk and bike, especially our young people, and it’s great to see so many students and families benefit,” Commissioner Novick said. “When we get our young people walking and biking, we start them on a path that results in healthier lives, a healthier city, a city with less congestion, cleaner air, and lower health care costs.”
“As a mom of four children I am always concerned about their safety,” said Transportation Bureau Director Leah Treat, “Being able to get them to and from school is something my husband and I think about twice every day during the school year. As your Transportation Director I care about every child traveling to and from school in a safe manner. And I want to encourage healthy choices in that endeavor. Safe Routes to School is a great resource that helps our city do just that.”
Novick walked with Treat and a host of other community leaders and students carrying a Safe Routes to School banner at Wednesday’s event. The group traveled along a newly improved gravel shoulder that the community had long advocated in order to improve pedestrian access and safety. The group also included Maplewood Elementary School Principal Annie Tabshy, Bicycle Transportation Alliance Executive Director Rob Sadowsky, and more than 150 students and parents walking and biking to school.
“The childhood obesity epidemic is a crisis that, in the long run, affects all of us,” said Dr. Jimmy Unger, a Portland pediatrician. “As one who spends much of my day encouraging families to be more active for the sake of their children’s health, I know that efforts such as these at Maplewood make it easier for families to make healthy choices.”
“Safe Routes to School provides significant benefits for Portland public students and families,” said Portland Public Schools board member Ruth Adkins. “We’re proud to be partners in this effort.”
Maplewood Elementary, in southwest Portland, joined the program in 2008. “When I moved to Portland with my kids, I immediately recognized the transportation challenges.” said Southwest Portland resident Ronda Zakocs. “As a parent, I’d like to thank SW Trails, Southwest Neighbors Inc, and the bureaus of transportation and environmental services bureaus for their work on improving the shoulders near Maplewood.”
"SW Trails has worked for years to get walkable extended shoulders, which provide much of the safety of sidewalks at a fraction of the cost. Thanks to a strong focus on improving safety and accessibility, the bureaus of transportation and environmental services have arrived at a solution that works for everyone,” said SW Trails chair Don Baack, who walked to school with his grandchildren. “We look forward to the construction of many more projects like these to provide safer walking, bicycling and wheelchair access on Portland’s substandard streets.
“Safe Routes to Schools mean safe routes for everyone,” said Joe VanderVeer, chair of the Portland Commission on Disability, “I’m excited to see the City of Portland looking out for Portlanders of all ages and abilities.”
Portland Safe Routes to School is a partnership of the City of Portland, schools, neighborhoods, community organizations and agencies that advocates for and implements programs that make walking and biking around our neighborhoods and schools fun, easy, safe and healthy for all students and families while reducing our reliance on cars. Follow on Twitter @PBOTSafeRoutes and Facebook.com/PBOTSafeRoutes
Photos Top to Bottom: Commissioner Steve Novick joining Maplewood students in their walk to school. Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) Director Leah Treat with Timber Joey of the Portland Timbers. Parent Ronda Zakocs leading children in a group “Thank You” to the community partners who helped make walking and biking to school safer. Photography: Felicity J. Mackay, City of Portland