Wednesday, October 8 was International Walk to School Day and Northfield’s second year to participate. True, some kids walk (and bicycle) to school every day, but they’re the minority. So, events like Walk to School Day are intended to educate kids, parents, schools and the community about the benefits of walking to school: improving kids’ health, limiting pollution and environmental damage, and to create safer pedestrian routes to our schools.
Northfield’s Walk to School Day is a project of the Non-Motorized Transportation Task Force which I served on last year. The City Council commissioned the Task Force for one year in May 2007 with this mission: To enable and promote walking, cycling, and other humanpowered activities as safe forms of transportation, thereby creating healthier, more vibrant, and more energy-efficient communities .”
In its 1st year – the Task Force was reauthorized for another year in August – the Task Force was very productive. Its report to the council tells how it:
- coordinated the first Walk to School Day for the Northfield Public Schools on October 3, 2007
- Obtained $30,000 Safe Routes to School planning grant for the Northfield Public Schools
- Provided input to the revisions of Comprehensive Plan, Transportation Plan, Parks, Open Space, and Trail System Master Plan and land use regulations
The Safe Routes to School grant will help the city and school district assess safety along routes to school such as mapping missing sidewalk connections and making recommendations for the intersection of Jefferson Parkway and Highway 246. The grant is also intended to underwrite educational activities to improve safety near our schools.
Bill Ostrem is the Task Force’s chair, and leader in getting the group established. His Northern Letter blog often includes information on bicycle and transportation issues. His work is a great grass roots effort by Northfield people who are bicycle and pedestrian experts (and enthusiasts) coming together to help the city get things done. My own contribution to the Task Force was more technical; I served on the Transportation Plan Technical Advisory Committee. The Trans Plan does a much better job than previous plans in planning for “complete streets” streets for not only cars but transit, bicycles, pedestrians, young and old, – but it’s just a plan. Unless the Council makes implementing its recommendations a priority, safer routes to school won’t happen quickly or consistently. One of my priorities if elected is make sure the Plan gets followed and the input of citizen groups like the NonMotorized Transportation Task Force is heard.