Tuesday, July 28, 2015

‘Kiss ’N Ride’ working: survey

With another school year now underway, the “Kiss ’N Ride” programs implemented at J.W. Walker, Robert Moore, and St. Francis last year will continue as a convenient, safe, and efficient procedure for dropping off and picking up children.
Results from a community survey conducted at the end of the last school year, as well as a Road Safety Achievement Award earned by the Fort Frances Traffic Safety Committee, offer proof of the benefits provided by the program.

“It was a very successful program for its first year and, with a few new strategies, hopefully we can improve the program even more,” said Elaine Fischer of the Northwestern Health Unit, which conducted the survey on behalf of the traffic safety committee.
Fischer noted 72 percent of respondents indicated they were satisfied or very satisfied overall with the “Kiss ’N Ride” program so far.
Some 71 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the program has improved before-school safety while 61 percent agreed or strongly agreed it has improved after-school safety.
“Many people noted that safety before and after [school] has definitely improved,” Fischer remarked.
“Dropping off children in the morning has definitely improved.”
Still, Fischer admitted efficiency after school is one of the areas the committee is going to have to look at.
“Some of the respondents did note that it did take some time to pick up,” she noted, citing only 46 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the program made it easier to pick up their kids.
“So hopefully we can implement some strategies to decrease the amount of time for pick-up and improve efficiency,” she remarked.
As well, in conjunction with the fact that 49 percent of students who live less than two km from their school are driven by vehicle, Fischer indicated encouraging more students to walk or ride their bikes would help ease after-school pick-up times.
“We do have a higher number of students being dropped off for a variety of reasons,” she said.
“Convenience is one. Parents are on their way to work, they drop their kids off at school.”
But she stressed walking or riding their bike to school is a really easy way to help meet their 60 minutes of physical activity suggested per day.
Fischer added the Northwestern Health Unit is looking at implementing a couple of initiatives, such as a walking school bus and bike trains, to make those options easier for parents.
“It’s definitely something we are interested in doing,” she remarked.
“We think there is a need and hopefully there is interest from parents, schools.”
Fischer noted they will be approaching the schools and parent councils this fall with the suggested programming.
“Hopefully we can work with partners to find out if it is something we can work together on with the community,” she reasoned.
The survey also highlighted that traffic flow in the areas of the “Kiss ’N Ride” zones could be improved.
“Maybe increased signage and/or increased awareness around the routes that people are encouraged to use for ‘Kiss ’N Ride,’” Fischer noted.
“So again, every year there might be a need for increased education and awareness about using the proper route.”
However, despite some areas where improvement is possible, Fischer stressed the survey showed “Kiss ’N Ride” definitely has made an impact in the area of safety in local school zones.
Some of the comments on the survey stated the program is “much safer, usually less delays, better traffic flow,” “a very good program and wish that everyone would use it,” and “a wonderful thing—it has made it much safer for our children and easier for us to pick them up and drop them off.”
“[I] love the idea of not having the stress of being extra cautious of children, vehicles, and parents weaving in and out of traffic around the schools,” noted another comment.
“‘Kiss ’N Ride’ has really made the before- and after-school experience very smooth and efficient.”
“With a few of the recommendations, hopefully we can improve or slightly modify the program,” Fischer said, adding they were please with the number of respondents who took part in the survey.
“We had a cross-section from both schools, along with community residents who answered the survey,” she noted.
“They might not have had kids within the schools, but they lived near the ‘Kiss ’N Ride’ zones or just general residents providing feedback on the program.”
Meanwhile, the Fort Frances Traffic Safety Committee received the 2013 Road Safety Achievement Award for Road Safety Partnerships from the Ministry of Transportation back in June.
Committee members, including local OPP Cst. Anne McCoy, Travis Enge, manager of plant operations for the Rainy River District School Board, Nikki Armstrong, manager of the Rainy River District Transportation Services Consortium, and Leslie Danielson, with the J.W. Walker School parent council, travelled to a gala in Toronto to accept the award.
“[The] Fort Frances Traffic Safety Committee has only actively been promoting road safety for a few years, but 2013 was an exceptionally impressive year with the collaborations they formed,” noted Tom Marinis of the MTO, who emceed the gala.
He also was key in assisting with the implementation of the “Kiss ’N Ride” programs here.
“In 2012, OPP Cst. Anne McCoy and I were looking at children darting across the streets of Fort Frances to go to school,” Marinis said.
“But that day was different,” he recalled, prior to presenting the award. “As we spoke about the possible solutions, a small child ran between two parked cars and was almost hit by an oncoming vehicle.
“At that moment, we both knew that something had to be done.
“Anne quickly formed a nucleus of a small committee that would soon flourish into the Fort Frances Traffic Safety Committee,” Marinis noted.
“And soon thereafter, the ‘Kiss ’N Ride’ program began.”
Marinis told those attending the gala that the initial meeting involved a multi-organizational approach, with impacted stakeholders invited to participate.
These included the Town of Fort Frances, the OPP, MTO, Safe Communities Rainy River District, both local school boards, the administration and parents’ associations at J.W. Walker, Robert Moore, St. Francis, and St. Michael’s, and the Rainy River District Transportation Services Consortium.
Also invited were the Northwestern Health Unit, the Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (S.A.L.T.), and the local media.
“This team came together to not only improve the road safety environment at one school, but at three schools,” Marinis stressed.
“As one nominator said, ‘We had tried independently to deal with this issue on a school by school basis without any success. But the collaborative efforts of the Fort Frances Traffic Safety Committee has made a real difference in keeping our children safe.’”
Cst. McCoy and the TSC members accepted the award.
“This community partnership award is very special to us,” she said. “It’s been the last two-and-a-half years of our lives working together and developing a relationship.
“The OPP [has] a term called community mobilization,” Cst. McCoy added. “This was community mobilization to a ‘T’.
“It not only developed community partnerships but it built relationships.
“We started with organizations that didn’t talk to one another,” she remarked. “Now we sit at a table, we enjoy each other’s company, we share projects with each other.
“The stars aligned for this project.
“From the moment that we had Tom come to Fort Frances, he came to a meeting and he met with at the time our manager of plant operations, Raymond Roy,” Cst. McCoy recalled.
“There was a project at one of our schools going out to tender the next day, and they stopped the project in order to help us find the funding to amalgamate the projects at all three schools to enable this project to happen.
“So that was the kick-off,” she remarked, then spoke about capturing on video a child running into traffic at the end of the school day and nearly being hit by an oncoming vehicle.
“Everyone got together and everyone worked as a collective to make this happen for the safety of our children,” Cst. McCoy stressed.
“This not only changed the safety for all the kids, but it changed behaviour.
“It was a really interesting project to be a part of,” she added, noting she and the TSC were honoured to receive the award.

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