The new school year has begun, with students, parents, school staff, and the whole county getting back into the school year routine. As the weather holds, many children and adults are making use of their feet and bikes to get to and from school, work, and other destinations. To help us all be safer, whether behind the wheel of a motor vehicle or using our own power, the Safe Routes to School Committee is sharing a reminder: “Walk Left and Ride Right.”
While a catchy little phrase, it also has great significance in keeping everyone safe while sharing roadways. When there is no sidewalk or trail option, by walking on the left side of the road, against traffic, people on foot are able to see oncoming vehicles and establish eye contact with drivers. Wearing brightly colored and reflective clothing also helps make pedestrians more visible to others using the roadway, especially at dawn, dusk, and other low-light hours. As fall progresses into winter, darkness will be the new norm for the main commute hours, making visibility even more important. Parents and other adults are encouraged to share these safety lessons with the children in their lives, to help make for a safe and active fall.
“Both pedestrians and vehicle operators have a shared responsibility for safety. Pedestrians must be aware off their surroundings especially when traveling on roadways without sidewalks. Drivers must be aware of all pedestrian traffic and in areas where it’s higher or there is more congestion, give the roadway your full focus,” said Cook County Sheriff, Pat Eliasen.
Just as motor vehicles stay on the right, bicyclists also need to ride on the right hand side of the road. Bicycles are considered vehicles, so when riding on the street, traffic laws apply. Riding against traffic, on the left, increases risk of collision with vehicles, especially at intersections where drivers are not expecting a fast moving bicycle riding on the left side of the road. Over the past three years, 3rd graders at Sawtooth Elementary and Great Expectations School have learned the importance of “Ride Right” through in-school bike education. A relaunch of this program, with 4th grade students, will be coming in the 2018-2019 school year.
The Safe Routes to School Committee works year-round to make it safer and easier for children to walk and bike to and from school. Studies have found that physical activity, such as walking or biking to school, allows students to concentrate better during the school day. And while many students in our county do not live in Grand Marais, many walk or bike to an afterschool destination in Grand Marais. In September, Slow Down lawn signs, school zone speed enforcement, and other efforts were all at work reminding our community that school has started and drive carefully to keep students safe. International Walk to School Day will be celebrated on Wed., October 4th, with three routes of Walking School Buses in Grand Marais accompanied by law enforcement and community volunteers. For more information, visit the event page.
Cook County Safe Routes to School (SRTS) strives to improve the health of kids and our community by making walking and bicycling to school safer, easier, and more enjoyable. For more information about Safe Routes to School Walk to School Day, to volunteer, or for a Slow Down lawn sign, contact SRTS Coordinator, Maren Webb, at 218-387-2330 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in the Cook County News-Herald, September 9, 2017.