Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Walking and biking to school

Today the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and Fairfax County School Board met to discuss walking and biking to school. As we reported earlier, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) has discussed this issue at recent Board meetings and is looking for ways to encourage more kids to walk and bike to school, in part to help reduce costs of busing kids.

Supervisor McKay noted that the county was not taking advantage of grant opportunities such as CDC health grants or the Safe Routes to School Program to educate the public and to help build infrastructure. There was a consensus that the School Board and the BOS need to work together to change the culture of driving kids to school who could easily walk.

Supervisor McKay noted that all schools should have bike racks. Dean Tistadt of Facilities & Transportation Services (I think that's who it was; there were no introductions) said that any principal who wanted a bike rack could "get one instantly." He also said that while poor infrastructure and lack of facilities was a problem, the main problem was that parents don't want their kids walking and biking because of perceived safety concerns. We think that attitude is changing as we hear from more and more parents who want their kids to be able to safely walk and bike to school.

It was agreed that providing Kiss & Ride areas was not the best use of school resources; facilitating parents driving kids to school makes walking and biking less safe, and contributes to air pollution and congestion around schools. As Mr. Tistadt said "This is lunacy. What we should be doing is putting up barriers for those who drive kids to school."

The group agreed to 1. Find examples of successful programs for getting more kids to walk and bike to school, and use those as examples for the rest of the county and 2. Determine where there are gaps in the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and provide funds to fill in those gaps.

Supervisor McKay will lead this effort. FABB will work his office to do what we can to help. One thing we can do is point to the Vienna Safe Routes to School Challenge as a successful example of parents leading the way for the rest of the county.

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