Every year thousands of children are injured while riding their bikes, many times on their way to school. In Illinois alone, there were 1,179 traffic injuries or deaths in children ages 5-14 years of age in 2010 while walking or riding their bike. Many of these accident coincide with peak hours of travel to and from school. Bicycling is a healthy activity for children that should be encouraged, however to make it safe, there needs to be a better place for them to ride then on the streets.
Move For Safe School Travel Plans
In recent years, more attention has been focused on creating safer travel for pedestrians and cyclists all over the nation. Illinois and Chicago in particular have made it clear that it is a priority for the region. Part of this involves looking at ways to improve school travel plans for children to reduce the injuries and deaths that happen as they are walking or biking to school.
In both 2012 and 2013, the Illinois Department of Transportation and Governor Quinn approved close to $50 million per year to be spent on the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP). The program allows for community improvements like bike paths or lanes among other projects. In 2013 many improvement categories were removed from consideration but the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), which bike lanes are a part of, was kept intact.
Bike Trails Are A Solution To Protecting Children?
In many areas of the country, more and more bike and walking trails have been created to improve safety. In New Jersey, a 10 mile trail was created that passes through eight towns and by 18 different schools. The trail gives children a safe way to walk or ride their bikes to school, away from deadly streets.
Many communities have turned old railways into bike paths. Since 1986 over 11,000 miles of railways have been changed into multi-use paths across the U.S. The National Highway Traffic Safety (NHTSA) Administration supports the idea to change more of these old railways into safe bike paths for children. They suggest that the trails be well lit, making it safe for them to travel in the early morning and dusk hours, going and coming from school. NHTSA also believes that if trails are created, more children will bike to school and that parents will feel more comfortable with the idea if they are off of the streets.
As in most community projects, it comes down to spending money to make the changes needed. Through the ITEP, there is money available, however, there are many different groups that are vying for the funds as well. It comes down to making bicycle safety for children a priority, deciding that it is worth the investment. Bicycle riding is good exercise and a way to reduce congestion on the streets; it just needs to be safer for children.