New-Orleans-youth-will-have-a-safer-walk-or-bike-to-school-thanks-to-planned-infrastructure-improvements

New Orleans youth will have a safer walk or bike to school thanks to planned infrastructure improvements

New Orleans youth will have a safer walk or bike to school thanks to planned infrastructure improvements **Fitting New Orleans – Issue 9 **
August 26, 2010

The KidsWalk Coalition is working to ensure kids have a new way to shake off first day of school jitters for the 2010-2011 school year – the option to walk or bike off that nervous energy on the way to school.

The KidsWalk Coalition, a local initiative led by the Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC), is conducting an audit of bike and pedestrian infrastructure surrounding public schools throughout New Orleans. A total of 20 sites representing a cross section of neighborhoods, age groups and charter and non-charter schools will be audited before the start of the 2010-2011 school year. The Department of Public Works will use this information to plan improvements around the schools.

School improvements will include correcting missing or damaged signage, lack of curb ramps and inadequate crosswalk markings, and will be coordinated by a transportation planner hired by the Tulane PRC.

"Children will be active if given a safe dedicated space to do so," said Kathryn Parker-Karst, assistant director of the Tulane PRC. "Providing environments that are conducive to physical activity and active transportation is critical to fighting the city's obesity epidemic."

AmeriCorps volunteers provided by Communities in Schools are conducting the school audits. The Coalition aims to complete audits of all 91 public schools in New Orleans before the end of 2010. KidsWalk staff will also use the findings to support schools' efforts to apply for Safe Routes to School funding – federal grants up to $300k for increasing physical activity, reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality and enhancing neighborhood safety.

"With roughly 30 percent of New Orleans families lacking personal cars the opportunity to walk or bike to school is invaluable," said Parker-Karst.

Beyond school environments, KidsWalk Coalition staff is working on advocacy efforts to improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure throughout New Orleans. Meetings with City Council and Mayoral staff will be held to determine their interests and views on bicycle and pedestrian transportation and safety in New Orleans.

The city's almost-approved Master Plan contains several policy recommendations for improving bike and pedestrian access and safety, including the establishment of a "Complete Streets" policy and development of a "Pedestrian Plan." KidsWalk staff is providing technical assistance to Department of Public Works to implement these recommendations.

The KidsWalk Coalition's mission is to increase physical activity levels of children and families by providing environments that facilitate walking and biking for both transportation and recreation. More than 10 partners comprise the Coalition with expertise ranging from urban planning to school policy.

New Orleans is one of 50 Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities partnerships in the country. Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities is a 5-year, $33 million national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). It is one of the largest and most ambitious community-action programs ever supported by RWJF and is a cornerstone of its $500 million commitment to reverse the country's childhood obesity epidemic by 2015. The program funds and provides direct support to community partnerships across the country working to reshape their environments in ways that improve the health of children and prevent childhood obesity.

To learn more about the KidsWalk Coalition's projects and learn how to participate in its projects, please contact Matthew Rufo at mrufo@tulane.edu or 504-988-7778.

Click here to sign up for “Fitting New Orleans.”

Topics:   bike lanes , sidewalks , childhood obesity , healthy kids, healthy communities

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