University of Illinois Extension working in partnership with UIUC Graduate Students in Urban and Regional Planning examined aspects of the built environment in East Bluff, a neighborhood in Peoria, as part of the Designing Healthy Communities Initiative. The Designing Healthy Communities Initiative is funded by Office of the Provost and College of ACES Illinois Extension and Outreach Initiative and is partnered with the City of Peoria. The focus was to analyze and then improve neighborhood and school connectivity to parks, playgrounds, and open play spaces. The culmination of the project was the creation of a Safe Routes to Learn and Play plan. This plan is a combination of the National Safe Routes to School (SRTS) and Safe Routes to Parks, linked in their goal of increasing safe, active transportation in children. Active transportation focuses on walking and biking, and the plan looks at the infrastructure, such as sidewalks, lights, and curbs, as well as non-infrastructure issues such as education and perceptions. Safe Routes are important in promoting community health and fitness, and creating a safer built environment for all. The plan focuses on the corridors between Glen Oak Primary School and Glen Oak Park. We looked at the pedestrian and bike infrastructure using walkability tools and community input sessions and analyzed data such as crashes, sidewalk locations, and the demographics of the area. Using the community input and data, the plan laid out recommendations for infrastructure improvements and education and encouragement programs. Also included are designated 'safe routes' for travel to the school and to the park.
Safe Routes to School National Partnership recently released a report that grades each state on how they support walking, biking, and physical activity policies. It's a cool way to assess where states are, but also clearly highlights specific areas for improvement.
Grades were calculated based on four key areas:
(1) Complete streets and active transportation,
(2) Safe routes to school and active transportation funding,
(3) Active neighborhoods and schools, and
(4) State physical activity planning and support
So, is your state making strides with walking/biking policies or is it just starting to lace up?