Press release from the City:
Fort Wayne Steps Out for International Walk-to-School Day
Mayor Henry and FWCS Put Safety First for Students
(October 6, 2010) – Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry joined Fairfield Elementary School principal Jeff Cline and others to celebrate International Walk to School Day Wednesday morning. Communities throughout the country and globally use the event as an effort to focus on the need for safe routes to schools, increasing physical activity among children and concern for the environment.
In 1997, the Partnership for a Walkable America sponsored the first National Walk Our Children to School Day in Chicago, modeled after the United Kingdom’s lead. Back then, it was simply a day to bring community leaders and children together to create awareness of the need for communities to be walkable.
“One of my priorities when I took office,” said Mayor Henry, “was to direct staff to find ways to better connect Fort Wayne’s neighborhoods with the destinations people want to go, like schools, parks and shopping areas. Not everyone is able to, or wants to, use a car as a primary transportation means. We need to make it possible for pedestrians and bicyclists to move safely through the community, too.”
For generations, walking was the mode of transportation used by many students to get to school. In the 1960’s, about 42% of students walked or biked to school. Earlier in this decade, that percentage dropped to 16% and it is likely lower now.
Fairfield Elementary principal, Jeff Cline, says the 25-35% of their students who walk to school rely on the community to help ensure their safety. “It is important that we recognize having good, safe walkways to school helps keep kids safe,” Cline said. “Sidewalks that are out in the open, clear of breakage, overgrown weeds, and snow and ice in the winter can help keep our kids from using the busy streets and dark alleys as their pathways. We thank the city for looking at how they can continue to ensure that we have safe pathways for kids in Fort Wayne and our school neighbors for helping to provide for and protect the kids at Fairfield and throughout the FWCS community. ”
Until the mid 1950’s, Fort Wayne’s transportation system was well built to serve the pedestrian, along with other forms of transportation. Once the City began to suburbanize, automobile use increased, which brought changes to the historic grid pattern of streets. This change in the development and design of thoroughfares has created long stretches of roadway with few or no pedestrian facilities provided.
When Mayor Henry took office in 2008, he saw the need for an expanded active transportation system, and with guidance from Plan-it Allen!, he directed City Planning staff to draft Fort Wayne’s first pedestrian plan, Walk Fort Wayne. The plan’s primary goal is to, “Provide for an interconnected pedestrian transportation network by providing policy direction to decision makers and prioritizing the installation of new pedestrian facilities along major thoroughfares that provide connectivity to key destinations.” The Walk Fort Wayne plan is anticipated to go before City Council in the next few months. The attached map reflects the total City investment thus far in 2010 for sidewalks and pedestrian safety facilities. Next year there will be a number of pedestrian infrastructure projects completed to add to the City’s pedestrian network.
The Transportation chapter of Plan-it Allen!, Fort Wayne / Allen County Comprehensive Plan, promotes new sidewalks and other pedestrian infrastructure to increase pedestrian safety, comfort and connectivity within our community. Walk Fort Wayne picks up where Plan-it Allen! left off and provides specific guidance on how to promote and invest in safe pedestrian connectivity. Fort Wayne’s planning staff, in collaboration with staff from the Northeastern Indiana Regional Coordinating Council, mapped all areas along major thoroughfares without sidewalks. Staff identified that over 350 miles of sidewalk are missing along the City’s major thoroughfares.
In 2005, federal legislators recognized the value of Safe Routes to School programs and as a result, congress is providing funding for States to establish programs. The Walk Fort Wayne plan devotes an entire chapter to the Safe Routes to School initiative, supporting and encouraging the community to support school children’s options for an active lifestyle.
To find out more about Walk Fort Wayne and the City’s efforts to improve pedestrian connectivity, click here.