A new path at Smith Elementary
Walking and biking to school is a healthy habit that can help kids get in some of the recommended daily physical activity. Walking and biking rates in the United States have gone down a lot since the 1960s, although many communities have seen a slight increase in the last ten years. In Bartholomew County, we want to encourage even more kids to walk and bike to school by making it is easier and safer to do so. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Team (BPIT) and the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Task Force, consisting of representatives from the City of Columbus, Bartholomew County School Corporation (BCSC), and Healthy Communities of Columbus Regional Health, recently worked closely together to complete a Safe Routes to School* project in the Eastgate neighborhood, east of Smith Elementary School.
Each year the Mill Race Marathon Committee allocates a portion of the proceeds from the annual Marathon to community projects that encourage wellness and physical activity. Some of the proceeds from 2018 were earmarked for a Safe Routes to School Project. The project was selected based on one of the priorities from the 2009 SRTS Plan: to improve access to Smith Elementary School from the Eastgate neighborhood, which contains a path that connects the school property to Dawnshire Dr to the East. The City then conducted a survey of the neighborhood that indicated the need for some improvements to the path, and was able to make these improvements without using the SRTS funding.
A 2014 report showed that only 6-10% of all students from Smith Elementary walked or biked to and/or from school, so it was clear that there was room for improvement. The next step towards improving access to the school and playground was to create a
new side path to connect the neighborhood path to the existing pavement and install bicycle parking racks. Healthy Communities was granted funding for the remainder of the project from the 2019 Mill Race Marathon funds. Construction of the new path and bike parking pad was completed over Fall Break in October 2019 and the only part of the project that remains is to install new bike racks.
A similar project at Parkside Elementary in 2017 made a big improvement to safety for walkers and bikers to the school. After a new path was constructed, connecting the rear entrance of the school to the sidewalk to the East without crossing the car line, most students walking and biking could be released at the back of the school, away from bus and car traffic. It is hoped that a similar change at Smith will help improve safety and encourage more kids to walk and bike.