Hundreds-of-New-Orleans-students-learn-safe-walking-biking

Hundreds of New Orleans students learn safe walking, biking

By Naomi Englar, Tulane PRC
June 2015

New Orleans students hopped on bikes and laced up their shoes to practice safe walking and biking, as part of the inaugural Walk & Roll to School Week on May 9-15. The week of events promoted walking and biking for transportation and marked the end of a citywide program providing comprehensive road safety education to 335 students in 10 schools.

That citywide program took place this past spring when the Tulane Prevention Research Center and local bike advocacy nonprofit Bike Easy teamed up to offer walking and biking safety education to 4th and 5th graders in New Orleans. The education was possible thanks to a Safe Routes to School grant through the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

“Active travel – walking or riding a bicycle – increases daily physical activity and helps protect against obesity and related chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Unfortunately, we know that many children aren’t getting enough physical activity, and more than 40 percent of children in New Orleans exceed a healthy weight,” said Carolyn Johnson, Tulane PRC Director. “Unsafe streets make it difficult for kids to be active in New Orleans, but educating children and families about street safety and the rules of the road can get more folks walking and cycling and thus creating a healthier community.”

Students received in-class education about walking and biking safety, such as using crosswalks to walk across a street and riding bikes in the same direction as traffic. Most schools also helped students practice what they learned with bike activities and practice courses set up at the school. Every student received a pedometer and an activity book after completing the school program.

“As more and more people are opting for healthy transportation by riding bikes in Greater New Orleans, the Safe Routes to School program is incredibly important in ensuring that our city’s children have the skills to safely walk and ride their bikes with confidence,” said Dan Favre, Bike Easy’s Executive Director. “Supporting accessible and equitable transportation options like biking and walking is good for our economy, people’s health, the environment, and students’ education. We’re so happy with what we’ve done with Tulane PRC, and we look forward to seeing more Safe Routes to School.”

To celebrate the end of the education program, the Tulane PRC and Bike Easy helped individual schools organize events during Walk & Roll to School Week, such as walking school buses, bike activities and welcome tables at schools for anyone who walked or biked to school. The week also included a Walk & Roll to School Kick-Off Family Fest, hosted by the Tulane PRC, Bike Easy, New Orleans City Councilmember LaToya Cantrell, the City of New Orleans Health Department’s Fit NOLA initiative, local wellness advocate Dr. Eric “Doc” Griggs and other community partners. The Family Fest started with a youth bike rodeo at Andrew Wilson Charter School, where kids practiced their bike skills, such as signaling for turns and how to put on a helmet. The event then moved onto a family 5k bike ride through Broadmoor and ended with a health and activities fair at Rosa Keller Library and Community Center.

“As we attempt to get parents and students to embrace alternative transportation methods, it is important to realize that it is not only about safety, but also developing healthy lifestyles,” said Cantrell, who serves as chair of the City Council’s Community Development Committee. Cantrell also created the School Transportation Working Group, and continues to work with governmental, school, and community partners to seek solutions to improve student safety.

For more information about the Safe Routes to School project, contact Tulane PRC’s John Marmion at 504-988-2090 or imarmion@tulane.edu.

(Click the photo above for a slideshow of photos from the Safe Routes to School education program and the Walk & Roll to School Week Kick-Off Family Fest. Photos courtesy of Bike Easy and Tulane PRC. Pictures 1-12 are, in order, from ReNEW Schaumburg Elementary, Success Preparatory Academy, Andrew H. Wilson Charter School, Lusher Charter School, ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy, Medard H. Nelson Charter School, Lawrence Crocker College Prep, and ARISE Academy. Picture 13-19 are from the Walk & Roll to School Kick-Off Family Fest on May 9.)

Topics:   built environment , bike lanes , sidewalks , physical activity , school health , walking , biking , youth engagement , childhood obesity

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