[How Mary Helped] Goshen's safe routes to school

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

In 2005, the Goshen City Council tasked the engineering department with determining the need to improve and enhance the walkability of our town. 

The budget was approximately $1 million.

The vision was large and the options were endless.

Photos provided by Lynne Zehr photography.

THE VISION

I immediately knew the place I wanted to start was safe routes to school. A well-respected study by the Blue Zones Project has proven the health and wellness of a community begins with children's ability to move naturally with the "right tribe."

“Thirty years ago, 60% of children living within a 2-mile radius of a school walked or bicycled "both ways" to school. Today, that number has dropped to less than 15%. Our kids are struggling with obesity before they hit middle school, and while energy-dense foods and large portion sizes have certainly played a role in this growing epidemic, including the simple and effective exercise of walking to school could help keep it at bay.”
-Dan Burden, Civic Innovator
“The financial straits of many towns and cities mean that some districts, like Goshen Community Schools, have cut back on the areas buses will serve due to lack of funds. Specifically, Goshen’s school board enforced a one-mile walk zone – that is, the distance from a home to school where student must walk.” 
-John Yoder, Cycling Sense, Elkhart Truth, August 16, 2014

HOW IT WORKED

I started by meeting with representatives from Goshen Community Schools to determine their existing walk routes and to discuss their needs. I quickly learned the existing walk routes were very small.

Together with Barry Younghans, the Director of Transportation for Goshen Community Schools, the most logical places to expand the existing limits for each elementary school were identified. 

Along with a student intern, we walked and evaluated the existing conditions of the sidewalk in each walk zone to make sure at least one side of the street had decent sidewalks. 

From the data collected, I developed plans for the construction/reconstruction of sidewalks to create Goshen’s Safe Routes to School.

In 2006, I submitted a federal grant application for a special fund made available for Safe Routes to School projects. Goshen was awarded $250,000 to put towards the new construction of sidewalks around Parkside Elementary School

WHERE WE ARE TODAY

This program doubled the designated walk zones around each elementary school (with the exception of Waterford Elementary where all children are bused). 

While school budgets continue to shrink, this public partnership was able to find ways to increase the school walk routes, keep kids safe, increase the wellness of our community and decrease the number of buses required to get kids to school.

This is part of the reason I love my job so much...I love making improvements that makes others’ lives better.

Did you walk to school as a child? Comment below and let’s take a poll!


LEARN MORE

Welcome to the Safe Routes to School Online Guide.

Welcome to the Safe Routes to School Online Guide.

DOWNLOAD a six-page PDF that outlines the steps for starting a Safe Routes to School Program on The National Center for Safe Routes to School’s (SRTS) website.

READ John Yoder’s full column on on bicycle and walking trains. John D. Yoder, before retiring, was a cycling commuter between Goshen and Elkhart and continues his interest in cycling as a recreational rider, teacher of cycling classes and president of the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, Inc.