New Missouri school bus rules highlight need for safe walking routes to school

A Springfield News-Leader Article, highlighted in the national Centerlines Newsletter, discusses the problem of lack of safe walking routes to schools:
Communities need to keep sidewalks in mind. Walking out the door of your house, where can your legs take you? How far can you safely walk? What about the children in your neighborhood? Can they walk easily to get to their school, their friends' houses or nearby parks? What about folks on the other side of town? New state guidelines regulating busing children to school should highlight larger questions of how walkable our cities and towns are. The new guidelines direct school districts to provide free bus transportation to school for children who live less than a mile from school who must use a dangerous walking route. The exact details of the state guidelines are not available. However, this focus on safe transportation to school districts reminds us of the importance of living in a walkable community where sidewalks and trails are available for all.

Ideally, local city and county governments and school boards would be working together to make sure that sidewalks are included with new developments and new schools. Fortunately in Springfield, all new subdivisions have to either have sidewalks or pay a hefty fee to the city so that sidewalks can be constructed, said Earl Newman, assistant director of public works. Some older subdivisions don't have sidewalks. In those areas, the city has worked since 1989 to use a quarter-cent
sales tax to expand our network of sidewalks, with a first priority to sidewalks that connect neighborhoods to schools. Greene County also requires high density subdivisions to build sidewalks on new roads. This would be a good model for other areas to follow. Sidewalks are, after all, more than just something for kids to use as they get back and forth to school every day. As Newman said, 'Everybody benefits from the sidewalks that are put in.'
The Missouri Bicycle Federation's new Missouri Safe Routes Coalition is designed exactly to address this problem--to work to make Missouri communities safer for kids to walk and bicycle to school.

You can find out more and join the Coalition's free email list here.