Many sidewalks and streets around New Orleans public schools have been improved over the past few years, but other schools and their students still face unsafe walking conditions, according to preliminary information from a KidsWalk Coalition report to be released by the end of December 2013.
Studies show providing safe, walkable and bikeable urban environments are proven ways to improve health by encouraging residents to be physically active. And, unfortunately, only about one in three Louisiana children get their recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity.
The KidsWalk Coalition, a program at the Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC), is updating its 2011 Stepping to School report that featured results of walkability surveys of the areas surrounding all public elementary and middle schools in New Orleans in 2010.
The 2011 report found that 60 percent of school areas surveyed were unsafe for walking and bicycling to school. In total, more than one in five miles of sidewalks were in poor condition or missing altogether, hundreds of crosswalks were worn beyond recognition and over half of all intersection corners lacked curb ramps.
“Improving the walking conditions around schools creates healthier neighborhoods and makes it easier for kids to walk to school and therefore be more physically active,” said Naomi Doerner, program manager for the KidsWalk Coalition.
Over the past few years, many New Orleans schools have moved, closed, opened and re-opened, creating a need to update the report. For the update, KidsWalk hired four Tulane public health graduate student research assistants to conduct the surveys – evaluating a total of 50 schools that were either new or had changed since the 2010 surveys. The KidsWalk Coalition has worked with the city of New Orleans’ Department of Public Works since the initial report was released to address problem areas identified in the report.
“We hope to show that public-private partnerships like this can address safety around schools in a cost-effective way,” said Jeanette Gustat, the KidsWalk Coalition’s director and a Tulane PRC faculty researcher.
For more information about the KidsWalk Coalition or to read the report at the end of December 2013, visit kidswalknola.org.