Spring 2004, p.13

Safe Routes Must Use Street Design to Encourage Walking

New York City has the highest rate of kids walking to school in the nation. The DOT should use traffic calming to encourage kids to continue to walk.

Given the soaring rates of childhood obesity in New York City, it is important that the New York City Department of Transportationís Safe Routes to School program must be more than a traffic safety program. It must be a program to re-engineer streets around schools so that kids and their parents are encouraged to walk to school to attend class and to play after school and on weekends. Many conventional traffic safety improvements do little to reduce the hostile feel of city streets. For instance, anti-jaywalking fencing may stop people from getting hit by motorists, but unless it is accompanied by more and better designed pedestrian crossings, it does not encourage people to walk more.

This is why good urban design is a key part of making New York Cityís Safe Routes to School a success. The well-designed street should be an invitation for people to take a walk with their kids. For example, a comprehensive response to turning motorists menacing parents and their kids as they walk to school is liberally installing neckdowns and raised crosswalks around schools because these devices slow turning motorists and emphasize the pedestrianís right-of-way. The point of traffic calming is both to reduce the number of kids being struck and to get more kids walking, more often.

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