New Providence school children walked and biked their way to a $462,000 grant. The award was announced Friday, March 17. This Safe Routes to School (SRTS) grant funds new sidewalks enabling our children to walk and bike to school safely.
New Providence has been encouraging our kids to walk and bike to school. To win federal grants awarded by state agencies like this one, we also needed to document our efforts.
Walk and Bike to School events
Individual schools had long been encouraging walking and biking activities. Then, two Girl Scouts organized the first district-wide event for their Bronze award. It was such a success that we’ve held regular Walk and Bike district-wide events for the last five years. These events kick off the Fall and Spring walking seasons. The big events also lay the groundwork for follow-up weekly walk/bike days, monthly walking buses, and poster contests. Results of these efforts were first quantified via teacher tallies and then by student/parent surveys. Then results parent volunteers shared with borough police, administration, and even SRTS personnel.
Bike Rodeo and Bike Parades since at least 2003
Starting in 2010 our police and Elementary PTAs, have held Bike Education Days for all New Providence 3rd graders. The police teach bicycle safety which students can then practice through an obstacle course. Employees from High Gear Cyclery have assisted. Before this there were Bike rodeos and a parade of decorated bikes during the July 4th festivities.
Interactive maps earn praise
When kids walk and bike to school and use remote Drop & Gos traffic improves. We innovated by making interactive maps of our Safe Routes to School. This allowed us to make daily changes as we tested each Drop & Go. Along the way we made hundreds of corrective edits to Google Maps. We also counted counts cars and walkers to understand and optimize traffic flows.
Safe Routes to School awards help win New Providence grant
New Providence has been winning awards for our long standing walk and bike to school culture. In 2016 both the New Providence municipality and Allen W. Roberts received the Safe Routes to School Gold award. New Providence Middle School earned Silver, matching Salt Brook’s Silver earned in 2015. These recognition level awards come from the NJ Department of Transportation’s partner organization, TransOptions. Our work to earn these awards helped win this New Providence grant, which will benefit all three schools. TransOptions offers programs for schools, work, and the community. Examples include “Traffic Safety Town”, “Bike to Work” competitions, and “Street Smarts”.
Whom to thank
Winning this grant was the culmination of unwavering support from a wide swath of the community. Please thank:
Our students and their families for walking and biking (and yes, even carpooling!)
New Providence School District principals Jeannie Drexinger, Jay Richter, former principal Scott Hough, and especially Gina Hansen for approving everything school related. Our Board of Education and Superintendent supported the principals, PTA/PTOs and bought bike racks. Custodians removed snow and installed bike racks and more bike racks.
Borough Council for resolutions. Bob Robinson, Mayor Al Morgan & Jim Madden for support. Borough Administrator, Doug Marvin & Andy Hipolit, Town Engineer for grant writing.
Our police force supported every event and innovation. Officer Joe DiParisi, Traffic Safety Officer was our primary contact and approved everything. Detective Michael Hand organized Bike Rodeos. Lieutenant Theresa Gazaway recruited Co-Chairs and oversaw special events. Lieutenant Justine Kennedy succeeded her. Police Chief, Anthony Buccelli supported our efforts.
Jim Johnston and his Department of Public Works paved the AWR back path, built our Crossing Flags and so much more. They also partnered with school custodians to keep Safe Routes to School clear of snow.
PTA/PTOs – AWR Front Circle Volunteers – David Alfonso, Rebecca Coniglio, Kathy Gelormini, Heather Huber, Amy Lepre, Katie Mangel, Anna Rita Falco; AWR Safety Committee – Amy Lepre & Ilyse Rogozenski wrote most of the website instructions for the Interactive Maps and Front Circle, organize AWR events, edit & provide wisdom. SRTS Co-Chairs, Cecile Seth & Donna Zane organized and documented it all.
Also, TransOptions and Congressman Leonard Lance submitted letters of support. Many others have helped over the years.
Who awarded the SRTS New Providence grant?
New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) in partnership with the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) is awarding over $4 million in 2016 Safe Routes to School (SRTS) grants throughout northern New Jersey.
The SRTS program is a federally funded reimbursement program that was established in 2005 to increase pedestrian safety awareness among motorists and schoolchildren.
Why a Safe Routes to School program?
School age children walking and biking to school nationwide declined from 42% in 1969 to 13% in 2001, as obesity rates tripled. In response, a federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program was formed.
Ideas for future grants?
Want to see improvements along your walk to school? Be part of the solution! Take pictures; count walkers, bikers or cars; document trouble spots. Discuss them at your next PTA/PTO/PTSA meeting, submit them through the town’s action line and take a long term view.