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ODOT funding supports Safe Routes to School program

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Sherman Elementary students celebrate International Walk to School Day in 2013.

THE BLADE
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Toledo students will continue to learn about pedestrian and bicycle safety thanks to a grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

ODOT on Tuesday awarded $710,000 to the YMCA of Greater Toledo’s Live Well program and to the city of Toledo.

Live Well will use its share of the funding — about $70,000 — to continue its Safe Routes to School programs, which aim to make travel to and from school more safe and sustainable for Toledo Public Schools students.

Those programs include the Walking School Bus, an adult-led group of students who walk a specific path to and from school with stops along the way, and Walk and Roll Wednesdays, a weekly event that encourages students to walk or bike to school together as a way to stay active.

Beth Deakins, the YMCA’s director of healthy living, said the program initially started to encourage kids to be more active, but organizers realized there are barriers preventing many children from walking or riding their bicycles to school. 

“Safety is one of the primary reasons parents don’t let their kids walk to and from school,” she said.

Cracked sidewalks, loose dogs, and faded or nonexistent crosswalks are just a few examples of the issues the group tries to mitigate with help from the city. 

The city of Toledo will use its ODOT funds — about $640,000 — to upgrade crosswalks, improve sidewalks, connect bike lanes, and educate the community on safe and active transportation.

Mrs. Deakins said those improvements should be ongoing throughout the school year.

A new program in place at 18 TPS schools gives participating students a key tag that is scanned when they arrive to school, which sends a text or email notification to their parents.

“This has been a really big deal for parents,” she said. “It gives them the security knowing that their child got to school.”

Safe Routes to School also provides students with free bicycle safety checks and repairs, free helmets, and bike locks on loan, Mrs. Deakins said.

Wednesday is National Walk to School Day, and Live Well is hosting a celebration at 8 a.m. at Hawkins Elementary School.

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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