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October 19, 2010 > Improving Walking and Biking to Newark Schools

Improving Walking and Biking to Newark Schools

Submitted By Soren Fajeau, P.E., Senior Civil Engineer

October is National Walking Month. Newark is uniquely suited to have high levels of walking and biking, especially for trips to schools. Newark is flat, has a temperate climate, has a complete existing sidewalk network, and has neighborhood-based schools.

Increased biking and walking activity can have a dramatic positive impact on the community. Here are some facts and figures that make a compelling case for improving pedestrian and bicycle access to Newark schools. Much of the below is from the National Center for Safe Routes to School Web page (www.saferoutesinfo.org).

* The Center for Disease Control recommends that everyone get 30 minutes of physical activity every day and children need another 20 minutes of vigorous activity several days per week. Yet nationally, 78% of young boys and girls fall short of this goal.
* In 1969, 42 percent of students walked or biked to school. In 2001, less than 16 percent of students between the ages of 5 and 15 walked or biked to or from school.
* Between 1976 and 2004 the percentage of overweight children aged 6 to 11 years old almost tripled.
* Childhood asthma rates more than doubled from 1980 to the mid-1990s and they remain at historically high rates today. Presently, asthma is one of the most prevalent chronic childhood diseases and is a major cause of childhood disability.
* Travel to school accounts for up to 26 percent of morning rush hour traffic.
* Walking and bicycling to school is associated with higher levels of physical activity throughout the day and greater physical fitness.
* Potential benefits of physical activity for youth include:
* Weight and blood pressure control
* Bone, muscle, and joint health and maintenance
* Reduction in the risk of diabetes
* Improved psychological welfare
* In July 2005, Congress passed federal legislation that established a national Safe Routes to School program. The program dedicates a total of $612 million towards SRTS from 2005 to 2009. The State of California also has a Safe Routes to School Program and between the Federal and State programs, California receives $47.25 million dollars per year to improve access to schools.

The City of Newark is embarking on its first Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan. Paid for with a grant from the Alameda County Transportation Commission, the City will develop a plan for a future system of bikeways and walkways that will enable even more kids to access Newark schools without causing traffic congestion and the safety concerns associated with too many parents dropping off kids.

Please join us on Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 6 p.m. at the Silliman Activity Center, 6800 Mowry Avenue, for a public workshop focused on improving walking and bicycling in Newark.

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