Bike Walk Hanover Successfully Develops a Bike and Walk to School Program
2020 brought many historic challenges, especially for local schools and K-12 education. One area greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic was students’ ability to attend school in person, and the opportunity to actively commute to and from school. To address this challenge, Bike Walk Hanover stepped up to develop and pilot a program to increase the ease of students traveling to and from school safely and actively. Bike Walk Hanover was formed in the Spring of 2017 after a group of engaged Hanover County residents dedicated to improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure completed Sports Backers’ Bike Walk RVA Academy.
How COVID-19 led to an active transportation program in Hanover County
During the 2020-21 academic year, COVID-19 caused many school districts to move to an all-virtual format. Hanover County Public Schools offered in-person attendance for students, with limited transportation provided. With 450 students opting to attend Cool Spring Elementary School (CSES) in person, and just over a quarter of that number signed up for bus transportation, Bike Walk Hanover anticipated traffic congestion at parent pick-up and drop-off. Alongside Cool Spring Principal Amy Williams, a supportive and dedicated biking and walking leader, the group stepped up to create a plan to promote a safe and active commute to school. Bike Walk Hanover organized meetings with school staff and families, mapped safe routes from nearby neighborhoods, promoted biking and walking safety tips, secured media coverage to share news about the program, recruited street crossing volunteers, and procured safety items such as crossing flags, signage, and magnets, among other materials.
The program is now a model for other area schools, including neighboring Chickahominy Middle School, which has a newly formed a Safe Routes to School program.
Wins in Active Transportation to school
Creating a bike and walk to school program in Hanover County provided an opportunity to support the education of families, students, and area drivers about safe and connected biking and walking routes. Since the beginning of the school year, Bike Walk Hanover has celebrated the following wins:
- On average, 40 students biked or walked to Cool Spring Elementary School daily during the fall and winter of 2020
- 100 families participated in Walk to School Day during October’s walking month celebration, which was part of National Pedestrian Safety Month
- Safety tips for pedestrians and drivers were shared with students, families, and neighbors
- Cool Spring Elementary School formed a Safe Routes to School Committee under the CSES PTA, to improve safety and accessibility for biking and walking; the committee is made up of the CSES principal, teachers, and parents
- Bike Walk Hanover and Cool Spring Elementary School grant writers collaborated on a Safe Routes to School mini-grant and received $1,000 to purchase safety equipment and promotional materials
The program has been well received and continues to earn praise from community members. Stephanie Hyra, a Cool Spring Elementary Parent, said the program had immediate benefits and will continue to serve the school community in the future. “Biking and walking to school options are very accessible for our three Cool Spring students and it has been a great part of this year’s school routine,” Hyra explained. “I think there was great payoff from the work put in to organize the Walk to School Day, and I hope it created momentum for more students to make walking to school a more frequent occurrence.”
Spotlighting a local Champion who was dedicated to making this happen
In December, Sports Backers recognized Kelley Carlsen, an active member of Bike Walk Hanover, as the 2020 Bike Walk RVA Volunteer of the Year! Kelley graduated from Bike Walk RVA’s 2019 Regional Academy, and she is an avid walker who also enjoys bike rides with her family. Upon graduation, Kelley immediately became involved in local efforts to further Bike Walk RVA’s mission of advocating for safe and connected places for people to bike and walk.
Kelley was instrumental in leading bike and walk to school efforts at Cool Spring Elementary School beginning in the summer 2020. She organized numerous meetings with school staff and PTA members, and she rallied parents, students, and volunteers to adopt active transportation methods in the CSES community and throughout the county. Bike Walk RVA is proud of Kelley’s leadership to bring a new program to Hanover County Public Schools during a global pandemic and we look forward to her continued support of biking and walking efforts throughout the Richmond region.
How you can get involved with bike and walk to school efforts in the Richmond region
The mission of Bike Walk Hanover is to create a safer, inclusive, connected community, and support active lifestyles across Hanover. The group envisions the availability and choice of human-transportation that will improve the health and safety of those living, working, and visiting Hanover, as well as a sustainable environment and economy.
Since the inception of Bike Walk Hanover, the group has been instrumental in organizing community events such as neighborhood bike rides and bike rodeos, leading an annual bike month activity, advocating for an Active and Healthy Living Chapter to be included in the county’s Comprehensive Plan, and developing a successful Bike and Walk to school program.
Bike Walk Hanover meets monthly and is always looking for new volunteers who are passionate about biking, walking, running, and active transportation in Hanover County. For more information, contact Margaret Davis, ([email protected]).
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