Two Golden Belt communities are among 14 statewide to share nearly $1 million to encourage children to walk or bicycle to school via the Safe Routes to School program administered by the Kansas Department of Transportation
The communities, including Ellsworth and Jetmore, will share $945,250 in federal money set aside for projects including development of a Safe Routes to School plan and infrastructure construction.
Created in 2005, the federal program enables and encourages children, including those who are disabled, to walk or bicycle to school, makes walking or biking to school safe and appealing and facilitates projects that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.
Ellworth and Jetmore were among those selected for Phase I funding, which covers the costs of developing a Safe Routes to School plan. Others included Bird City, Caldwell, Chetopa, Manhattan, Osage City, Oswego and Pittsburg. All cities will receive up to $15,000.
Receiving Phase II funding for infrastructure improvements are Holcomb, $200,000; Humboldt, $200,000; Lyndon, $200,000; and Salina, $65,100. Phase II projects can include sidewalk improvement or construction, pavement markings and signage.
Funding in the amount of $145,150 was also awarded to the PedNet Coalition to develop Walking School Bus programs in15 schools across the state. This funding will train volunteers to start up successful programs in which groups of children walk to school with adult supervision.
These are all ideas whose time has come. As we battle a culture that has become increasingly less healthy due to food choices and lack of exercise, we must capitalize such programs.
In fact, more communities, including Great Bend, should take advantage of these resources.
As we look at the walking and bicycling, not only for our youth but adults as well, new systems are needed not only for the fitness aspect, but also for safety, environmental and economic development reasons.
We can all only benefit from such actions.