In the spring of 2007 Davida Eisenberg of Mass Rides met with the Essex School Council to discuss Safe Routes to School in Essex. Initially the program served as a way for the school to support the town’s efforts to fund a sidewalk on Story Street.
Ms. Eisenberg presented several options to implement a program for students. The goals of safe routes are to reduce congestion, air pollution, and traffic conflicts near participating schools, while increasing the health and mobility of school-aged children.
According to the MassRides:
National statistics show that less than 15% of school children bicycle or walk to school today. In 1969 approximately 48% of students walked or bicycled to school.
Travel to school can account for up to 25% of morning traffic.
Among children 6-11 the rate of being overweight has increased from 4% to16% since 1963.
Initially this program began as a way to evaluate the safety of walking routes for students. The nature of the program fits in well with our wellness policy and participation is highly encouraged.
In May of 2007 several teachers at EES volunteered to escort students to school in “walking school buses” by meeting students and walking to the school as a group. Many parents accompanied the group as well. They met at 7:40 AM on Wednesdays and Fridays at the police station and walked up Martin St. Bus students were encouraged to walk around the play yard when they arrive at school. Last year students received “trip tickets” and after 20 commutes by foot or bicycle received a small prize. It was very successful, and Essex Elementary School will continue the “walking school buses” this year as well.