Milwaukie & Tigard Lead the Call for Healthy Kids and Safe Streets

The Safe Routes Partnership is pleased to support the For Every Kid Coalition in the Pacific Northwest region. For Every Kid is a growing coalition calling for Safe Routes to School for every kid in the Metro-area; vocal support from cities and school districts is an outcome of key partners coming together to promote the benefits and work with communities and we have been an active part of the leadership of this effort.

Local leaders agree: creating safe options to walk, bike, or ride the bus to school is critical to improving the health of kids.

In March, in unanimous votes, Milwaukie and Tigard City Councils became the first cities to pass resolutions calling on the Metro Regional Government to meaningfully invest in a region-wide “Safe Routes to School” initiative.

“The ability to walk and bike safely is critical to school kids,” said Milwaukie City Councilor Mark Gamba. “The measure of any community is the safety and well-being of its children. I intend to see Milwaukie build the necessary infrastructure to create safe routes to school and move towards the eventual goal of being an utterly walkable and bikeable city.”

Families at Linwood Elementary took action to make walking and bicycling to school safer.

Families at Linwood Elementary took action to make walking and bicycling to school safer.

Efforts in Milwaukie kicked off in 2014 when local residents attended our Clackamas County meet & greet event to learn more about how they could make their communities safer for kids walking and bicycling while improving healthy transportation options. Parents at Linwood Elementary didn’t wait to jump on board for their kids’ safety, and the interest in Safe Routes to School has spread like wildfire throughout the City of Milwaukie and Clackamas County.

Following the passage of Milwaukie’s resolution on March 17th, Tigard City Council and Tigard Mayor John Cook joined the call, passing their own resolution on Tuesday.

“Our goal is for Tigard to be the most walkable community in the Pacific Northwest where people of all ages and abilities live healthy, interconnected lives,” said Mayor John Cook. “Providing a safe route to school for every kid is essential to the health and safety of our community.”

In 2014, the City of Tigard announced in its Strategic Plan, its desire to become the most walkable community in the Pacific Northwest; it didn’t take them long to realize that Safe Routes to School would be a great way to improve the health and safety of their student population while creating healthier and more walkable neighborhoods for all of Tigard’s residents. City of Tigard is the recent recipient of RTO grant funding to support their plan to implement Safe Routes to School for all schools throughout the city.

(c) Tigard Walks!

(c) Tigard Walks!

In Clackamas and Washington Counties, more than 70% of 8th graders are not getting the recommended amount of physical activity according to the 2013 Oregon Healthy Teens Survey. Lack of physical activity is a leading contributing factor for obesity, diabetes and heart disease—a problem for Oregon, where one in four kids is overweight or obese.

“We need sidewalks and a more visible crosswalk,” said Ane Roth, Milwaukie resident, Linwood PTA representative, and mother of two boys. “My kids and many more could walk and bike if the street in front of the school was safer.”

Roth and other Linwood parents have been working for the last year to increase walking and biking to school by leading walking school buses and encouraging families to participate in walk and bike to school days; however, the streets are not safe for every child to participate.

School surveys show that at least 60% of students at Linwood want to walk and bike to school, but parents don’t allow it because the streets need sidewalks and other safety features. Instead, about half of students are driven to school. This is greater than the percentage who ride the school bus and significantly more than walk and bike.

“Childhood obesity is a reality for far too many children in our community while many neighborhood streets lack sidewalks,” said David Lord, teacher at Metzger Elementary in Tigard. “With regular exercise, students are more attentive in class. Kids need safe streets to be able to get around and to learn about how to walk and bike safely.”

Walking or biking to school can help kids meet over half of their daily recommended physical activity, and public transportation users have been shown to get three times as much physical activity. The proposed region-wide Safe Routes to School initiative—“For Every Kid”—represents a chance to address these problems.