Chatham's Safe Routes to School Committee has plans to make the streets a little safer for students.
The six schools in the will participate in Walk and Bike to School Week, from Monday, April 23 to Friday, April 27. The purpose of the week is to encourage students to come to school by some means other than a family vehicle.
"The student population will be increasing in the coming years, so we need to start making it easier, safer and more popular to walk and bike to school," Kathy Abbott said. Abbott is a member of the Committee and the Safe Routes to School Committee.
The week also coincides with Earth Day, which will be celebrated on Sunday, April 22.
Members of the Safe Routes to School Committee hope to apply for a grant to pay for pedestrian and biking infrastructure improvements near schools in the Chathams. The committee is working with local elected officials, police, school officials and municipal engineers to identify needs at each of the schools.
The committee is also working with TransOptions, a nonprofit organization which offers transportation options and programs such as carpooling and Park-and-Ride programs.
TransOptions also created a survey for Chatham parents for .
According to a press release sent by Abbott, programs for Walk/Bike to School Week include:
- Walking School Buses: Younger children who live within walking distance of a school will be escorted in groups on foot by a designated parent.
- Biking Safety Classes: TransOption has trained the physical education teachers to give lessons for grades K-9 on how to bike safely. In the past, only two elementary schools, Milton and Washington Ave, had regular biking safety classes. Chatham is the first NJ school system to use the Bike Right® curriculum so extensively.
- Celebrations and Encouragement for Students: parents plan to lead a Pedestrian Safety Flash Mob dance; Physical Education teachers at will give rewards for walking and biking to school or to the school bus stop; parents will give out rewards for biking and walking to school; students at the middle and high schools are in the process of making promotional videos and posters on the benefits of walking and biking; Traffic Safety Officer Robert Sweetin will visit some of the schools to offer safety advice.
- Parent information on safest, recommended routes: Safest walking routes will be on electronic maps provided by TransOptions. Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts assisted with GPS mapping of local footpaths.
- Information for drivers: Parents will be reminded about how to drive when bikers and pedestrians are present.For example, there is a 2010 NJ law that says that all drivers need to stop, not just yield, for pedestrians anywhere in a crosswalk. Another example is that drivers should let an teen or adult bicyclist take a lane of the road when necessary.
Abbott said with nearly 2,000 students coming into the Chatham High and campuses each day, safety for students to walk or ride their bicycles to school is essential.