The Rye YMCA, in partnership with the Port Chester School District and Open Door Family Medical Centers, hosted a lively discussion on pedestrian safety issues at the Port Chester Middle School on Tuesday, March 18. The workshop was attended by a broad cross section of the community, including village trustees, school administrators, teachers, law enforcement officers and parents wanting to provide safe walking and biking routes to Port Chester schools.
Jeff Olson, workshop facilitator and principal at Alta Planning + Design, started the day with the participants observing the students' morning arrival to the middle school campus Olson noted that the placement of "school zone" signage and crossing guards wearing visible safety vests are two measures that could improve pedestrian safety around the school campus.
In his opening remarks, Olson asked participants to discuss their biggest safety concerns and what they hope to gain from the workshop. Traffic congestion, distracted walking and driving and inadequate crosswalks and sidewalks, along heavily traveled roadways were among the common concerns raised by workshop participants. Break-out sessions to discuss feasible traffic and safety solutions using the 5 "E's" of the Safe Routes to School Program (Education, Encouragement, Engineering, Enforcement and Evaluation) followed.
Since 2007, the Rye YMCA has supported the Safe Routes to School Program and has worked with schools in Rye, Rye Neck, Larchmont, Mamaroneck and Harrison to educate students about the health and environmental benefits of walking to school. Each fall and spring the Rye Y has sponsored Walk to School Weeks and provided fun incentives to students as encouragement. The Walking School Bus program. where children walk with their families and neighborhood friends to school, has been a successful component of the Safe Routes to School initiative.
Rye Y Executive Director Gregg Howells remarked "The Safe Routes to School Workshop is a good start in raising awareness of the pedestrian safety needs around in Port Chester community." Ellette Hirschorn, Director of Clinical Services and Programs at Open Door Family Medical Centers, stated "We enjoy a great partnership with the schools and the Rye YMCA and we want children to become less distracted while walking and driving to school." Hirschorn further commented "we want to have more parents walk with their children to school to encourage healthier behaviors and habits for the whole family."
The Safe Routes to School Workshop was organized by a planning committee that has met since October 2013 and includes Frank Fanelli (Assistant Superintendent, Port Chester School District), Patrick Swift (Principal, Port Chester Middle School), Joe Durney (District Director, Port Chester School District), Carolee Brakewood (VP, Board of Education), and Laura Tiedge and Lisa Urban of the Rye YMCA. The committee will continue to work with the school district, Rye Y and Open Door on the next steps to implement some of the best practices of the Safe Routes to School program.