Traverse City school audited to create safer walking and biking routes

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TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- Walking and biking to school may not be as popular as it used to be, but one Michigan organization is working to change that, by making the routes to school safer for kids.

Safe Routes to School goes from school to school, walking around the neighborhoods with parents and students to determine what could be fixed to make it a safer route, then they help make those changes a reality.

Parents and students of Willow Hill Elementary walked up and down their neighborhood streets, making notes, and looking for ways to make it safer for kids.

“Going to look for areas that might need improvement in safety we're going to look for some areas that maybe not only do we need to repair sidewalks but we're going to look at how the traffic is flowing,” said Willow Hill Principal Angela Sides-McKay. “We can look for some recommendations for how we can make that safer for the kids.”

It's part of a federal initiative called Safe Routes to School that works to get more kids to walk and bike to school. They say it reduces traffic, improves air quality, and it's also good for kids.

“It's a win win win situation,” said Michigan Safe Routes to School Director Meg Ackerman. “So we really want to focus on getting kids walking and biking and our program remove the barriers to do that. So we figure out what are the barriers and then we do things that improve the routes.”

Dozens of suggestions were written down.

“Put a bike rack right in Ashton Park so kids could bike and then walk through so they wouldn't have to bike all the way up the hill,” said one parent.

Safe Routes to School is auditing all elementary schools within the Traverse City limits. They'll pool the information, prioritize the improvements and apply for grants through MDOT.

But even if they haven't audited your school, they say it's always good to identify the safest route with your kids, and walk in a group.

“Getting the kids to walk and bike to school in a group safely,” said Ackerman. “We know that that's also something that children like to do, they like to walk with her friends in the morning and get that early morning energy out of the way.”

The organization says the audit is the first step, so it will probably take a couple years for the changes to be implemented.

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