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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.

West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance celebrates 10 years!

18 Mar

Last night the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance celebrated its 10th anniversary at its Annual Meeting. Ken Carlson, the group’s founder and first president who moved from the area, was back in town to attend and be a guest speaker.

wwpa

Presentations from both the current president (Jerry Foster) and past president, covering recent advocacy efforts as well as the history of the group, made it clear that this is an organization that has made a real impact on improving conditions for both cyclists and pedestrians in West Windsor.

Their efforts have made West Windsor a safer place and a more inviting place to walk and bike.  And their work is inspiring other communities and other groups to do the same.   West Windsor is now a bronze designated bike friendly community.  Given WWBPA’s efforts so far… a Platinum designation could be in sight for their 20th!

 

 

February is Heart Month, Your Yearly Reminder to Love your Heart

4 Feb

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February is Heart Month.  The American Heart Month and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Million Hearts launched the Million Hearts Initiative in 2012. The initiative aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017 and offer the following recommendations:

–    Understand the risks

–    Get up and Get Active – at least 30 minutes for several days per week

–    Know your ABCS: Aspirin therapy, Blood pressure control, Cholesterol measurements, Stop Smoking

–    Eat a healthy diet

You can find more information in this campaign fact sheet.

In addition to following these recommendations, it is also important to recognize the symptoms and know what to do if it happens to you.

How to recognize a heart attack

Heart attack symptoms in women and men differ, with women being more likely to experience shortness of breath while men typically experience chest pains.  Here are some of the symptoms:

Women:

–    Shortness of breath with without chest pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the chest that is intermittent or lasts for a few minutes.

–    Pain or discomfort in arms, jaw, neck, back, or stomach, nausea/vomiting

–    Breaking out in a cold sweat

Men :

The typical heart attack symptoms in men are chest pain, chest discomfort or pressure. Other less common symptoms include discomfort in arms, jaw, neck, back, or stomach, nausea/vomiting, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath.

What to do if you have a heart attack

If you or someone you are with experiences the symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 right away.  Do not drive yourself or someone else to the hospital unless you have no other options.  Emergency medical services are equipped to treat the victim on the way to the hospital.

What to do if you have a heart attack when driving

If you experience symptoms, pool over in a safe area, call 911 immediately. Don’t drive yourself to the hospital unless that is the only way to get help.

-Chew an aspirin

-Try to calm down, breath deep and slow

-Cool your body’s temperature

While these actions help, they will not stop a heart attack. Your safest bet is to get to a hospital as soon as possible.

It’s also important to know that you have some control over your heart health.  Small lifestyle changes, like choosing active transportation, can have huge health benefits.  Being active doesn’t need to be time set aside for exercising.  You can easily add active time to your day by choosing to walk or bike rather than drive for short trips, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.  Walking to the bus stop or from a distant parking spot to the station counts too—and it all adds up to better heart health!

Sources:

http://share.upmc.com/2014/02/survive-heart-attack-alone/

http://www.healthcommunities.com/heart-attack/prepare-save-your-life_jhmwp.shtml

https://www.goredforwomen.org/about-heart-disease/symptoms_of_heart_disease_in_women/cardiac-arrest-vs-heart-attack/

http://millionhearts.hhs.gov/

Fall Safety Tips

23 Oct

In October the days are shorter and it is getting dark earlier which means you have to pay extra attention when you are on the road.

flickr.gigi_nyc

Photo credit: gigi_nyc – http://www.flickr.com

When driving:

  • Be careful when the road is covered in wet leaves, they may cause your car to slip.
  • Watch for deer, they are very active between dawn and dusk this time of
  • Pay particular care for bicyclists and pedestrians who can be more difficult to see during low light hours.
  • Adjust your lights to low beam when driving through fog
  • Always wear your seatbelt and do not use electronic devices while driving.

When walking or biking:

  • Make sure you have bright/light clothing, reflective gear, a glow stick, or a reflective band.
  • Cyclists must have lights on the front and rear of their bike. It’s safer and the law!
  • Pedestrians can also carry a flashlight and should always use the sidewalk when available
  • If possible walk/bike in groups to be more visible.

Stay safe and enjoy all the beauty of the fall!