As the 2011-12 school year gets rolling, children and families are finding their routines for commuting to school. Because of the dedication and hard work of many in our community, the commute to school this year, especially for children who hike or bike, is safer than in the past. This summer’s safety improvements include: additional bike lanes across the city, sharrow stencils on other roads to remind drivers to share the road, a dedicated bike/pedestrian lane under the Mt. Werner overpass, a pedestrian underpass near Third Street and Fish Creek Falls Road and a crosswalk at McKinley and Maple streets. More projects are planned for fall, including Phase 1 of a project that will provide directions and location information along the Yampa River Core Trail and several other pedestrian and bike routes throughout the city. Credit goes to Steamboat Springs City Council and city staff members for making the safety of pedestrians, bikers and especially our children a priority when they approved funding for these projects.
Wednesday was the first hike and bike to school day as part of Safe Routes to School in Steamboat. There are many positive reasons to hike or bike to school, but what really inspires this effort is the research that shows how physical exercise before school increases children’s capacity to learn. The Safe Routes to School initiative encourages students who live close to school to hike or bike every day, but a special effort is made on Wednesdays to get every student who would like to participate involved. With their parent’s permission, students who ride the bus are allowed to get off the bus on East Maple Street by Steamboat Springs High School and walk the Butcherknife Trail to Soda Creek or Strawberry Park elementary schools. Several families who typically drive their children to school choose to drop their children off at that intersection or at Stehley Park so students can enjoy the walk. This year, the Wednesday hike and bike effort will continue throughout winter.
Each Wednesday, it takes the commitment of several volunteer patrols stationed at intersections along the routes as well as extra effort from parents and families to get children out the door a bit earlier to make the program a success. Principals, staff members and teachers at Steamboat schools have been hugely supportive of this effort, and several local organizations and businesses have stepped up to provide rewards to children who participate.
Cycling advocacy groups Steamboat Bike Town USA Initiative and Routt Country Riders have continued to campaign for safety for riders of all ages. Safety has been the priority of these groups, which understand that without safe roads and trails for children and adults, nothing else matters.
There is always more to be done and never enough funds. The city is aware several intersections and crosswalks still need improvement including the crossing at Fish Creek Falls Road and Tamarack Drive, the crossing of Amethyst Drive at the church trail and a better option for bikers to get from Oak Street to the Core Trail. Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush and Steamboat Government Programs Manager Winnie Delliquadri always are on the lookout for grants and funding sources to help accomplish the never-ending list of projects. Mitsch Bush and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association Transportation Solutions Committee spearheaded getting the Colorado Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School grant that funded a kid-friendly map for the program.
These efforts among others are what earned Steamboat Springs a new gold rating from the American League of Bicyclists. Thank you to all who had a part in this accomplishment and congratulations.
Paige Boucher is the coordinator Steamboat Safe Routes to School and a Bike Town USA Initiative member.