Local-advocacy-group-announces-results-of-street-safety-audits-for-walking-and-bicycling-to-school-in-New-Orleans-

Local advocacy group announces results of street safety audits for walking and bicycling to school in New Orleans

The KidsWalk Coalition recently released a report indicating that 60 percent of New Orleans public school areas surveyed lack safe environments for walking and bicycling to school. "Stepping to School: An assessment of neighborhood walkability and solutions for a safer, healthier New Orleans" features results of walkability surveys of the areas surrounding all public elementary and middle schools in New Orleans covering nearly 175 miles of sidewalks.

The survey revealed that in total, more than one in five miles of sidewalks are in poor condition or missing altogether, hundreds of crosswalks are worn beyond recognition and over half of all intersection corners lack curb ramps. Only one school area surveyed received a "Good" rating in the report, and more than 30 school areas received a "Hazardous" rating.

Ranking fourth in the nation for prevalence of childhood obesity, only about one in three Louisiana children meet national recommendations for physical activity. Studies show providing safe, walkable and bikeable urban environments are proven ways to better public health by encouraging residents to be physically active.

"Improving pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure around schools is a cost-effective means of changing lifestyle habits by encouraging daily physical activity," said Kathryn Parker-Karst, director of the KidsWalk Coalition. "This systems-level change will help New Orleans fight its obesity epidemic and give children and families safer spaces to be active."

The report recommends that the City of New Orleans prioritize and fund pedestrian safety improvements around schools; create and fund a sidewalk maintenance program; include pedestrian and bicycle-friendly provisions in the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance; better coordinate with utility providers to make street repairs; consider inspecting sidewalks through Code Enforcement; adopt and implement a city-wide "Complete Streets" policy; and adopt and fund an ADA Transition Plan.

The KidsWalk Coalition sent teams of trained surveyors between June and November 2010 to survey a one-block radius around every public elementary and middle school in Orleans Parish to document the conditions of sidewalks, signage, crosswalks and curb ramps. Because the surveyed schools are well distributed throughout a majority of New Orleans neighborhoods, the survey represents a cross-section of the entire City's pedestrian conditions

New Orleans pedestrian infrastructure is in need of investment due to decades of deferred maintenance, soil subsidence and the impact of the flooding of Hurricane Katrina. It would cost an estimated $6 million to $9 million to replace all sidewalks in missing or poor condition in the school areas surveyed. Installing curb ramps at intersections that lack them would cost the City and State between $5 and $7.5 million.

The KidsWalk Coalition is a local partnership of government agencies and public health, transportation and community organizations dedicated to improving the health of New Orleanians by creating opportunities for physical activity. Its mission is to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic in New Orleans by making walking and bicycling safe for children and families to access schools, healthy eating choices and other neighborhood destinations.

The Prevention Research Center at Tulane University is the Coalition's lead agency, and through a unique partnership with the City of New Orleans, works directly with the Department of Public Works to make New Orleans streets and sidewalks safer and more accommodating for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The Coalition is one of 50 partnerships in the country funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities program. This initiative 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. It is the largest and most ambitious community-action program ever supported by the foundation, and is a cornerstone of its $500 million commitment to reverse the country's childhood obesity epidemic by 2015.

To download the full report, visit Kidswalknola.org

Topics:   built environment , childhood obesity , KidsWalk Coalition

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