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Safe Routes teams to hit the streets

Teams will walk streets near as many as 19 CMSD schools next week to assess conditions that discourage children from walking or bicycling to school.

The “walk audit” is part of the Cleveland Safe Routes to School initiative that began in July and will last the entire school year.

With help from a number of groups, the city and CMSD will map routes to help children in kindergarten through eighth grade walk and bike to school as safely as possible.

Safe Routes to School is part of a national initiative that has spread to nearly 80 of Ohio’s 88 counties. A committee will develop a plan that could be used to secure grants for such purposes as sidewalk repairs, safety education, speed-limit enforcement and dealing with nuisance properties.

Supporters’ ultimate hope is to help children become more physically fit and more focused in school, while also reducing pollution. Their goals align with CMSD’s new campaign to raise attendance -- “Get to School. You Can Make It!” – and the city’s Healthy Cleveland Initiative.

The committee will review data on traffic, accidents, street conditions, vacant houses and crime and chart “kid friendly assets” and “safe havens” like parks, libraries, police stations and recreation centers.

Members also will review the results of surveys given to principals, parents and students.

CMSD operates 70 K-8 schools. Because the District is so large, the plan will focus on “priority corridors” that benefit as many students as possible.

While the plan is being developed, Calley Mersmann, CMSD’s Safe Routes to School coordinator, will promote
strategies like the “Walking School Bus” – a group of children walking to school with one or more adults – and Walk and Bike to School Days.