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Back to School Safety Tips

18 Aug

It is that time of the year again! Schools in our area are starting classes on September 5. That means it’s time for back to school preparations and going over some back to school safety tips.

Children and Parents

Taking the school bus:

  • Wait for the bus to stop before boarding and always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access
  • Walk only where you can see the bus driver (which means the driver will be able to see you too)
  • Look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street, just in case traffic does not stop as required
  • Do not move around on the bus
  • If the school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure you use one at all times when in the bus

Credit: Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

 

If you are driving them to School:

  • All passengers should wear a seat belt or use an age- and size-appropriate car safety seat or booster seat
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age)
  • All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If you must drive more children than can fit in the rear seat (when carpooling, for example), move the front-seat passenger’s seat as far back as possible and have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do not fit properly without it
  • Require teen drivers to wear a seat belt, limit the number of teen passengers, and do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations, texting or other mobile device use to prevent driver distraction

 

 Biking to school:

  • Always wear a bicycle helmet
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic. Use multi-use paths or bike lanes when available.
  • Learn and use appropriate hand signals
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. White or light-colored clothing and reflective gear is especially important after dark.

Walking to School:

  • Choose a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at busier intersections (note: internal neighborhood roads don’t have crossing guards so the every seems unnecessary)
  • Organize a “walking school bus,” and take turns walking children to school. Use the NJ Walking School Bus app to find other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school.
  • If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility.

And drivers should lookout for children, slow down, obey speed limits in school zones and be prepared to stop for school buses.

If you want to know more about bike and pedestrian safety learn how to organize a walking school bus and how to use the NJ Walking School Bus app, go to gmtma.org.

Bike Month Events

9 May

Bike Month is packed with all kinds of events in Mercer County. There is something for everyone in the family and that is why Greater Mercer TMA would like to ask everyone to pay extra attention, be cautious, and share the road.

Biking events for children

  • Bike to School Day for Princeton public schools:

Community Park School – TBD

Johnson Park School – May 16th

Littlebrook School – May 10th

Riverside School – May 18th

John Witherspoon Middle School – May 10th

Princeton High School – TBD

  • Bike Rodeos

St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center will host its annual Bicycle Safety Rodeo and Safe Kids Day on Saturday, May 13, 2017 from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

Children must pre-register for this event to receive a free bike helmet and bike inspection. Register by email at bikerodeo@slrc.org (preferred) or by phone at (609) 896-9500, ext. 2212.

For more information go to http://slrc.org/events/post/bicycle-safety-rodeo

The Princeton 7th Annual Wheels Rodeo – Saturday May 20th, 2017 from 10AM to 1:00PM at 400 Whitherspoon Street. There will be free bike safety checks, helmets, refreshments and more! Enter for a chance to win a free family pool membership or a new bike.
This is your chance to bring any unwanted bicycles to donate and to register your bike with the Princeton Police Department.
For more information call Princeton Police 609-921-2100 ext. 2121.

More info online at https://www.facebook.com/events/1894169967521136/

Biking events for adults and families

  • National Bike to Work Week is May 15-19th, and Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 19th. Register for Bike to Work Week, Bike to Food and Friends, and Bike to Work day events at http://www.gmtma.org/pg-bike-to-work.php
  • On Sunday May 21st the Historical Society of Princeton will host Chasing George,” a 10-mile bike ride along the D&R Canal State Park path, following the route George Washington took the morning of January 3, 1777 to fight in what became known as the Battle of Princeton.
  • The “Chasing George” ride joins PBAC’s Ciclovia 2017 at Quaker Road. Between 1-4pm the road will be closed to cars. Feet and people-powered wheels are welcome.

Parking for cars is available at the Quaker Meeting or at Mercer Mall.

For further details see PBAC’s blog – http://pjpbac.blogspot.com

  • Whole Earth Center Random Acts of Community

Each week in May on a randomly chosen day at a randomly chosen corner and time, Whole Earth Center will give the first 6 bicyclists who ride by a reward package from local businesses worth over $40.  Whole Earth is also a sponsor of Bike to Work Week.

For more info, go to https://www.facebook.com/wholeearthcenter/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE&fref=nf

Transit as a Habit

17 Mar

In a recent blog post on planetizen.com, two researchers, Michael Smart and Nicholas Klein discussed the  findings of their  study to determine what shapes our travel behavior.  The authors of the study found that “habits and preferences for transit may be formed at an early age” and “the quality of transit experienced earlier in life can be just as important as the quality of transit in the current neighborhood.”

Smart and Klein also say that being exposed to high-quality transit during our 20s and 30s increases the chance of using transit later in life and the habit of using transit is maintained even when moving to a location with low transit choices. And as someone who likes public transit and used it a lot in my early life, I can attest to that. However, when it comes to NJ public transit, we could all use a little guidance.  For some reason, buses especially seem to be a little intimidating to some people. How do you pay? How do I know how much to pay? Can I pay the driver?

To make this a little easier, try to take a trip one day on the bus or train when you are not in a rush to get somewhere.  And why not make it a family trip, take your kids with you and help them form that habit earlier in life. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • NJ Transit makes it easy to purchase tickets, see schedules, and plan your trip with the help of their NJ Transit Mobile app. You can download the app from the AppStore or on Google Play.
  • If you do not use the NJ Transit app, you can find schedules and fare at http://www.njtransit.com/sf/sf_servlet.srv?hdnPageAction=BusTo or you can ask us to send you a hard copy. We usually try to supply enough schedules at the local libraries and municipalities as well.
  • Local bus route tickets cannot be purchased with the app so you will need to have exact change when you get on the bus. Fares are based on zone. You can find the zone by looking at the map printed on the schedule.
  • When the bus arrives at the station, raise your hand to signal the driver you want to get on.
  • When you want to get off the bus, press the signal strip located near the window to let the driver know you want to exit at the next stop.
  • If you are planning a train trip and you do not have the app to purchase tickets or find a schedule, schedules can be found at the train station and tickets can be purchased at the ticket vending machines located near the station. The ticket vending machines accept all types of payments and fares are based on the location you wish to travel.
  • You can take your bike to transit and on the NJ transit buses and trains. There is no extra charge, but there a few restrictions for bicycles on NJ Transit train. More Bike& Ride info is available here.

Check out our mobility guide for more details on planning your bus or train trip.  You can also find bus and rail schedules and the mobility guide Spanish version on our website.

We hope you give transit a try and enjoy the ride! Let us know how it went.

Sources:

http://www.njtransit.com/rg/rg_servlet.srv?hdnPageAction=BikeProgramTo

https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/09/transit-lifelong-habit-study/

 

Calling All Artists Grades 3 – 5!

17 Feb

Greater Mercer TMA’s (GMTMA) fourth annual Safe Routes to School Bookmark Design contest is now underway.  Mercer County and Ocean County students in third through fifth grade are eligible to show their love of walking by creating a bookmark with the theme “I like to walk to … with….”


bookmark

Exercise your feet and your brain! Draw a bookmark of who you like to walk with and where you like to go. The winning bookmark designs will be printed and distributed to area schools and local libraries.  Each winner will also receive a $50 gift card.  For more information about the contest and the Safe Routes to School Program, go to gmtma.org.

Submission deadline is March 24, 2017! Bookmark entry forms are available at gmtma.org

Why Walking is Worth the Effort for Me

27 Jan

This week’s post comes from a www.strongtowns.org Pathfinder, Michelle Erfurt. Michelle’s story shows how beneficial it is to find a time to walk.

I love following along with the work of John Simmerman of Active Towns who shares examples of towns that support a culture of activity. The practice of getting fresh air by taking a walk every day is something that should be easy for me to do… I work from home, my house is in a town with sidewalks, near a big park, beside a historic district, and two blocks from a quaint downtown. I’m not lacking in things to see or places to go.

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Michelle walking her son Eddie. Photo credit: Michelle Erfurt

But working from home on my computer and taking care of a 3-month-old always takes a higher priority and before I know it, the day is over and I haven’t gotten outside. Let’s just say that I’m completely on board with the philosophy of Active Towns and Strong Towns, but the practice is challenging. I have two kids and a job, I’m often tired and seldom alone, so taking time to be active outside feels like a big hassle. Then, the next edition of the Active Towns newsletter lands in my inbox and I’m reminded that I really need to get out there.

We had really nice weather the other day so I decided to walk to pick up my 4-year-old from school instead of drive. I put the baby in the baby carrier and walked him, the stroller and myself to day care. It’s about a mile away.

When I picked up Eddie (the older kid), he did not want to walk. He said he wanted to “ride in his car”. As we went, he hugged every parking meter and after a block, he decided to ride in his stroller. In his stroller, he talked non-stop commenting on how big the trees were, how he loves trees, pointing out all the newspapers in front of people’s houses, and talking, talking, talking. He talks a lot and at a very loud volume. I was happy to not have to constantly remind him to use his inside voice. Eddie has a speech delay and gets speech therapy twice a week. It’s very hard to understand him most of the time but the more we practice, the better it gets. Finding opportunities where speech practice can naturally occur is really important. And this walk was full of them.

When we were almost home, a little girl came out of a house saying “Eddie! Hi Eddie!”. It turns out that she is in Eddie’s classroom in the mornings and her grandmother lives down our street. She hangs out with grandma in the afternoons. Maybe I finally found a neighborhood kid for him to play with this summer.

Picking up Eddie like this takes me a full hour. When we got home I was sweating, the stroller and baby attached to me became heavier and heavier. It would definitely be much less shorter in the car and would take a lot less effort on my part. But the benefits outnumbered the challenges: I got outside, the baby got outside, Eddie practiced his speech, we got to do something fun together and we met some neighbors. I felt really proud of myself too! The active lifestyle looks different for everyone.

The next day, Eddie told his dad “I want mommy to walk me home every day”. So, I guess he liked it too.

Thank you Michelle and Strong Towns for this article! Michelle Erfurt is a Strong Towns “Pathfinder” and a mother of two.

This article originally appeared on www.strongtowns.org and was reprinted with permission,” followed by the permanent link to the blog post. http://www.strongtowns.org/contributors-journal/michelle-erfurt

Back to School Safety Tips

19 Aug

It is hard to believe August is almost over and there are only a few days left until school starts. That means it’s time for back to school preparations and going over some back to school safety tips.

Back to school Safety tips

Let’s start with the drivers:

  • Don’t drive distracted and watch for children walking and biking to school
  • Slow down, obey speed limit in school zones and near school bus stops
  • Look out for children around your vehicle, when you back out of your driveway
  • Be prepared to stop for school buses if the yellow overhead light is flashing and come to a full stop when the red lights are flashing. Cars behind the bus and cars coming from the opposite direction have to stop when the school bus red lights are flashing.

Children and Parents

Taking the school bus:

  • Wait for the bus to stop before boarding and always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access
  • Walk only where you can see the bus driver (which means the driver will be able to see you too)
  • Look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street, just in case traffic does not stop as required
  • Do not move around on the bus
  • If the school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure you use one at all times when in the bus

If you are driving them to School:

  • All passengers should wear a seat belt or use an age- and size-appropriate car safety seat or booster seat
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age)
  • All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If you must drive more children than can fit in the rear seat (when carpooling, for example), move the front-seat passenger’s seat as far back as possible and have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do not fit properly without it
  • Require teen drivers to wear a seat belt, limit the number of teen passengers, and do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations, texting or other mobile device use to prevent driver distraction

 Biking to school:

  • Always wear a bicycle helmet
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic. Use multi-use paths or bike lanes when available.
  • Learn and use appropriate hand signals
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. White or light-colored clothing and reflective gear is especially important after dark.

Walking to School:

  • Choose a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at intersections (note: internal neighborhood roads don’t have crossing guards so the every seems unnecessary)
  • Use the NJ Walking School Bus app to find other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school.  Organize a “walking school bus,” and take turns walking children to school
  • If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility.

If you want to know more about bike and pedestrian safety learn how to organize a walking school bus and how to use the NJ Walking School Bus app, go to gmtma.org.

 

Sources:

https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/pages/back-to-school-tips.aspx?nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR:+No+local+token

http://apps.saferoutesinfo.org/lawenforcement/resources/driving_tips.cfm

https://www.safetyinsurance.com/resource_center/personalauto/schooltips.html

http://exchange.aaa.com/safety/child-safety/schools-open-drive-carefully/#.V7MftFQrK70

What is a Walking School Bus ?

25 Mar

We recently launched the “Step into Spring. Ready, Set, Win!” competition and we mention that participants have to use the NJ Walking School Bus App to organize walks. Some people may wonder what is a Walking School Bus and why would you need a bus to organize a walk to school?

Photo: kavalenkau/Shutterstock.com

Well, a Walking School Bus is not really a bus. It is a parent led and organized group of children that walk to school together.  It is a great way to get children to walk to school, and it can be as small as two families taking turns to walk their children to school. There is also a variation for children and parents that bike to school, and it is called a bicycle train.

How can you start a Walking School Bus? You can start by inviting families that live nearby and walk as often as you like, it could be once a week, twice a week, or every day.  Or using our NJ Walking School Bus App you can join existing groups or create new groups and participate in our contest. Winners will be announced in June! Details about the contest are available here.

How does a Walking School Bus help? It helps children get the recommended daily amount of activity, and it helps parents who lead the group get their exercise too.  Children get to socialize with their friends, get to school feeling energized and ready to learn.

A Walking School Bus also helps the community by reducing air pollution and having fewer cars on the road.

If you are interested in starting a Walking School Bus but you are not sure how, what routes you could take, let us know and we will help you get started.

And don’t forget to share your story; you could be featured on our blog.