New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and representatives from the National Center for Safe Routes to School, the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, and Safe Kids USA today announced the kickoff for “We’re Walking Here NYC”—an innovative competition that invites New York City schools to design posters that promote walking as a safe, healthy and practical way to get around that is good for their community and the environment—as part of the city’s International Walk to School Day celebration. Students citywide take on the challenge of answering this question for prizes: “If you could teach people one thing about walking in New York City, what would it be?” To participate, schools register online to download contest guidelines and lesson plans that highlight the benefits of walking. The announcement coincides with International Walk to School Day and Month in October, a worldwide celebration and global public awareness campaign for creating safer streets for students everywhere. This year’s International Walk to School Day celebrations are being held in the U.S. on Wednesday, October 5. DOT representatives joined Lauren Marchetti, Director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School; Moira Donohue, Director of Safe Kids USA; and Dr. Bella Dinh-Zarr; Director of FIA Foundation/Decade of Action for Road Safety to mark the occasion by walking with schoolchildren from P.S. 197 on Fifth Avenue and 135th Street in Harlem, near a recent DOT safety redesign at Madison Avenue and 135th Street.
"New York City is earning top marks for safe streets and we're doing everything we can to encourage active ways to get around,” said Commissioner Sadik-Khan. “While we engineer streets that are easier and safer to walk to school, we're showing kids that walking and safety are as essential as the ABCs."
New York is a city of walkers, with one-third of trips in the city made on foot, one-third by transit and the remaining third by car. With the majority of New York City’s more than one million students walking to school, to transit and around their communities daily, the contest provides a unique opportunity to engage the city’s youngest pedestrians and help them recognize and build healthy habits for life. To participate, entries must be received by midnight, Nov. 1, 2011. The school with the best overall design wins a $1,000 grant from the Safe Streets Fund, a public-private partnership dedicated to supporting safe streets for all New Yorkers. Three $250 prizes will be awarded for the best design in each category: Safety, Health, and Environment Sustainability. The winning design will be used in future DOT safety educational materials and DOT gear, which could include t-shirts, caps and safety accessories.
“We are excited to be in New York City to kick off International Walk to School Month and the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety’s involvement in the international celebration of walking and bicycling to school,” said Lauren Marchetti, director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School. “From the large number of children walking to school every day, to NYC DOT’s innovative approaches to improve safety across all five boroughs, New York embodies much of what other communities across the country are striving to create in their own neighborhoods—safe, active transportation options, starting with the trip to school.”
"The goal of the Decade of Action for Road Safety is to save 5 million lives and prevent 50 million injuries over the next 10 years across the globe, and International Walk to School Day represents what the Decade is all about," said Dr. Bella Dinh-Zarr, on behalf of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety. “The students who walk with us today are a symbol of the challenge facing us—to make sure that that every child, in every country, can walk to school safely every day.”
This past spring, Commissioner Sadik-Khan joined Mayor Bloomberg and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to announce the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, which is designed to bring greater global awareness and action to the need for safer streets. This is the first International Walk to School Day under that initiative, and is supported by the FIA Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting road safety, environmental protection and sustainable mobility.
In New York City, traffic fatalities are at an all-time low, with the last four years being the safest in recorded history. Still, DOT works to combine education and engineering to achieve its aggressive goal of reducing the number of fatalities by 50% by 2030. At 135th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan, DOT simplified the intersection by installing pedestrian safety islands and new markings and making other safety improvements in the area. The redesign echoes DOT’s ongoing work to calm traffic in all five boroughs, and complements the agency’s Safe Routes to Schools initiatives that tailor streets so they are safer for all pedestrians, and especially school children.
In the United States, Walk to School Day celebrations are nationally coordinated and supported by the National Center for Safe Routes to Schools. Established in May 2006, the National Center serves as the information clearinghouse for the federal Safe Routes to School program, which assists communities in enabling and encouraging children of all abilities to safely walk and bicycle to school. The National Center for Safe Routes to School is maintained by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. Learn more at www.saferoutesinfo.org.
For more information about “We’re Walking Here NYC” and DOT’s other safety initiatives, visit nyc.gov/dot.