Students research safer trips to school

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – More than 40 students went out into the field to research safer ways to get to school.

The students set a one-mile radius around Phalen Learning Academy and Carpe Diem Charter School and canvassed the area. Safe Routes to School Indiana and Health by Design organized the event.

The goal was to help them identify problems on sidewalks and roads in the area and come up with ways to fix them.

Groups walked around within a mile of each school near Meridian and Illinois Streets, giving teachers and parents a chance to see exactly what their children are dealing with.

“The purpose of the walk is to go out and identify A, the best walking route, and B, some of the things that can be done to improve that area,” said Joan Cook, of Health by Design.

That means spotting problems that could interfere with how these young assessors make it to and from school.

A crack in the sidewalk was the problem along Meridian Street. Once the team photographer snapped a photo, the recorder jotted down what they found.

“I think it’s awesome. It gives the kids an idea of that the streets need to be safe,” said parent LaShelle Tipton who guided one of the groups of students.

Not all the problems are so small. The traffic speed along Meridian Street has school officials worried that there aren’t enough places for students to safely cross the road.

For Tipton, finding those problems while promoting exercise is a step in the right direction.

“It also gives them the idea that walking is good for you, it’s healthy for you. So I think it’s wonderful, a good time to interact with kids,” Tipton said.

Once all the groups returned, they listed all the problems they found. From there, they’ll determine if fixing them requires talking to homeowners, neighborhood associations, or talking directly with city officials.

Cook said identifying places where crosswalks should be added could mean contacting the Indianapolis Department of Public Works. She added that less than 20 percent of students walk or ride a bike to school, a number they hope to increase by identifying safer routes.

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