Lynchburg, VA - Lynchburg City Schools officials are encouraging students to walk to school. Now, they have the money to make walking a safe alternative to driving thanks to a grant from VDOT.
This is to fix up the streets around schools for three Lynchburg schools.The VDOT "Safe Routes to School Program" involves new construction like sidewalks, crosswalks and pedestrian signs.
Annette Miller remembers walking every day to Yoder Elementary in Lynchburg.
"As a child I walked to school with my neighbors and it was just a wonderful experience," said Miller.
Now, she's a school counselor and wants her students at Dearington Elementary to walk, not ride, to school too. Most don't, and Miller knows exactly why.
"Our students are not walking because we don't have those safety features in place," said Miller.
But come this Spring, they'll start working to make the streets safer for students to walk to three Lynchburg schools.
A grant of $134,000 will give Perrymont 3,000 feet of new sidewalk and crosswalks, a grant of $125,000 at T.C. Miller will help pay for eight timed pedestrian signals, and Dearington gets $115,000 for almost 3,000 feet of new curbing.
"It's just a sense of security. It makes them feel safe when they walk on the sidewalk," said Miller.
"We did walk to school," said Kelly Hitchcock, a senior planner for Region 2000.
Hitchcock is spearheading the project and says over the years, America has become car-centric and unhealthy. But making three Lynchburg schools walker friendly is a chance to reverse that trend.
"It's not creating anything new. It's trying to bring back that environment that I grew up in where you saw people walking to school and neighborhoods and moms walking with kids," said Hitchcock.
Next week is International Walk to School Day. On Wednesday, October 3, the three schools getting the new sidewalks plus four more will encourage students to walk to class. It was a success last year, so they're eager to do it again.