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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.

Meet Wally Walker and Becky Biker

11 Aug

As the NJ Department of Transportation’s designated regional coordinator for Safe Routes to School efforts, Greater Mercer TMA works to keep children in Mercer and Ocean counties healthy by encouraging them to stay active through walking and biking to school and offering safety education.

Throughout the years GMTMA has promoted walking and biking with a variety of programming; safety presentations, bookmark contests, walk and bike to school events, bike rodeos, a walking school bus app (available here), and other events.

This year we have enlisted the help of two characters that will join our “staff,” Wally Walker and Becky Biker. They recently had their debut at the Jackson Library where a kindergarten audience had the chance to meet the crew up close and color in their own Wally to take on adventures.  Wally and Becky join us on screen too during our presentations.  The students get to follow Wally and Becky on their trip to school, teaching safety lessons along the way.

Wally and Becky will also be the main characters in our new walk and bike activity booklet. A cut-out version of Wally, included in the booklet, encourages kids to take a walk with Wally and write about it.  We can’t wait to hear about their adventures!

If you are interested in hosting a safety presentation or a walk and bike to school event, please contact our SRTS coordinators. 

Time to Nominate an NJ Smart Workplace

4 Aug

Attention NJ Businesses Offering Commuter Benefits to Employees – You May Be Eligible for NJ Smart Workplaces Awards

 Applications are now being accepted for the 2017  New Jersey Smart Workplaces (NJSW) awards. NJSW recognizes and honors employers who help reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality by providing commuter benefits to employees. Employers of all sizes are eligible to apply. Applying is easy and chances are that employers already provide some of the things that qualify them for this designation. Employers are recognized at one of four levels of achievement: bronze, silver, gold or platinum based upon the programs offered at the worksite.

There are no costs associated with this prestigious designation and all awardees will be featured on our website and recognized at Greater Mercer TMA’s Annual Luncheon in October.

These are some of the things we are looking for:

Bronze Level

  • Establish and maintain a relationship with a local Transportation Management Association (TMA).
  • Designate an on-site point of contact for employee commute inquiries.
  • Place alternative commute information in new-hire packets. (Contact us at tma@gmtma.org to receive alternative commute information)
  • Encourage employees to register for TMA traffic alerts or 511NJ.org or disseminate traffic alerts to your employees.
  • Provide access to a site-specific commuter information display.
  • Regularly promote commute options and TMA incentives through regular memos, postings, e-mail, Intranet or other employee communications.
  • Encourage employees to register their alternate commute with a local TMA.

Silver Level

  • Host or sponsor TMA events/programs such as National Bike to Work Month, National Walk Month, Car Free Week, or Distracted Driving Awareness Week at the worksite.
  • Provide financial or staff assistance for TMA-sponsored community events.
  • Host two or more on-site vanpool/carpool formation meetings.
  • Provide a designated outdoor bicycle parking area or an appropriate indoor area.
  • Provide employees access to basic bike maintenance tools.
  • Provide preferential parking for vanpoolers or carpoolers.
  • Offer a formal flextime program.
  • Offer a formal telecommuting program.
  • Offer a formal compressed workweek policy.
  • Provide pretax payroll deductions for commuting cost for employees (vanpool, transit and/or bicycle commuters).
  • Provide Emergency Ride Home for employees who have exceeded the maximum number of TMA-provided rides.
  • Provide on-site amenities such as food service, dry cleaner, ATM/bank, sundries or showers.
  • Implement a teleconference policy.

Gold Level

Achieve FIVE Bronze Level activities and five Silver Level activities.

Platinum Level

Achieve Gold  level and implement a comprehensive site-specific alternative commute program such as:

  • Telework or compressed work week program that reduces commute trips by 3%.
  • A monthly employer subsidy toward transit passes.
  • A monthly employer subsidy/benefit for employees who carpool or vanpool.
  • Partnering with local gyms, Ys, or other groups to provide off-site showers.
  • Supplement parking by partnering with local organizations to create private park and rides.
  • Provide fleet of bicycles for employee use or rental.
  • Provide an employer-subsidized shuttle.
  • Provide electric vehicles for employee business use.
  • Provide electric vehicles and charging stations for employee use.
  • Contact your TMA for more suggestions.

The program is a partnership of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Association and the state’s Transportation Management Associations (TMAs). Greater Mercer TMA is the program’s coordinator in Mercer and Ocean counties.

Go to www.gmtma.org  to register online. If you are not sure you qualify or you have questions about the program, please contact us at tma@gmtma.org.

Safe Streets and Walkability for Seniors

28 Jul

A recent article on curbed.com brings attention to the issue of walkability for our growing older adult population.  Older adults surveyed by A Place for Mom said that it was important for them to live in a walkable neighborhood.

But in many communities being able to do so safely is an issue of design.  The traditional multi-generational communities that the survey also showed older adults preferred are not always age friendly and need to do some more work on road safety.  Some of the issues identified in a Transportation Alternatives, Safe Routes for seniors article are:  pavement is uneven and there are obstacles that could lead to tripping, seniors are unable to cross with the walk cycle, and cars do not stop for seniors walking in the crosswalk.  Because of these design issues, many seniors find themselves isolated because they don’t feel safe going out, walking or biking.  And their fear is not unfounded, an NJ State police report shows that in 2016, 166 pedestrians lost their lives, and 44 of them were 65 and older.

In some communities, like ours, there are car services available for seniors such as our Ride Provide program and the Princeton Crosstown Service. These help seniors get to a doctor appointment and do their grocery shopping, and socialize. And while this is a great service, seniors should be able to just go out for a casual walk in their community without worrying about tripping or being able to cross the street. After all leading an active lifestyle improves their quality of life.

So how can we make that possible? The Safe Routes for Seniors intiative had the following recommendations:

  • Make streets flat and have smooth transitions to the curb
  • Install shelters and benches at bus stops
  • Create wide median refuge area with benches and shelters on wide streets
  • Extend crosswalk
  • Add more pedestrian space
  • Drivers should be required to stop 15 feet from a junction

Given the fact that more and more seniors want to continue living in their communities, making these changes would make that possible.

Regardless of whether such accommodations are available, seniors who want to go out for a walk should always keep in mind the following safety tips:

  • Use paths and sidewalks when available
  • Plan your routes so you have crosswalks and crossing signals
  • If you can’t tell how much time you have to cross the street, wait for one light cycle and cross when you get a “fresh green”
  • When crossing the street look right, left, and right again
  • Look for traffic even if you are crossing with the light
  • When crossing, pay extra attention at the curb, drivers may not be able to see you until you are on the roadway
  • Be careful in parking lots, look for backup lights and engine noise
  • Wear bright clothes
  • Walk with a friend so you can watch for each other

And drivers can also help make our communities safer for pedestrians no matter their age by following these practices:

  • Follow posted speed limits
  • Lookout for pedestrians and stop at crosswalks
  • Look for pedestrians before you back out of alleyways and parking lots
  • Do not pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk
  • Do not drive while intoxicated

These small changes can help make our communities more accessible to seniors, more “age friendly,” and safer for everyone.

 

Sources:

https://one.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/olddrive/SteppingOut/getting_started_safely.html

https://www.transalt.org/files/news/reports/2009/Safe_Routes_for_Seniors.pdf

https://www.transalt.org/issues/pedestrian/safeseniors

http://exchange.aaa.com/safety/pedestrian-safety/tips-pedestrian-safety/

https://www.curbed.com/2017/7/25/16025388/senior-living-walkability-survey

 

Committing to Reduce Emissions

9 Jun

A recent Smart Growth America article highlights the ways in which cities can commit to reducing emissions and steps mayors can take to achieve the Climate Actions Agenda goals.

Some of the steps highlighted in the article are investing in electric cars and clean energy and building walkable neighborhoods which are served by transit.  Compact, walkable neighborhoods are efficient because they reduce the need to use a car and reduce water and energy use.  And as Smart Growth America mentions, compact, walkable neighborhoods are in demand, which is good news for people worried about climate.

Other steps mayors can take:

  • Make walking and biking safer by adopting a Complete Streets approach
  • Make public transit a priority
  • Adopt policies that make it easier  to locate homes and businesses near transit
  • Allow mixed-use development
  • Rethink street networks so that they connect and not end in a cul-de-sac

In Mercer County, Princeton’s Mayor Liz Lempert signed the Climate Mayors open letter to adopt and uphold the climate goals. Some of the highlights are:

  • Adding a new electric vehicle charging station on the first level of the Spring Street Garage
  • Adding a new temporary parklet in front of jaZams along Palm Square which will serve as a playful environment to educate people about renewable energy sources
  • Committing to reducing the municipal environmental footprint by producing less waste and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • And a new solar project over the former River Road landfill.

So far, over 270 mayors have committed to uphold the climate goals. And all of us can also commit to taking small steps to support them and the Climate Action Agenda by changing the way we drive and how we drive, use less energy, take public transit, and being more aware of our environmental footprint.

 

This Earth Day Green Your Commute

21 Apr

This Saturday, April 22, is Earth Day, marking the end of Earth Week, an event celebrated in 192 countries, to increase awareness about the environment, sustainability, animal extinction, rainforest depletion, and other issues.

This Earth Day we’d like everyone to focus on reducing CO2 emissions from motor vehicles. A recent NJ Spotlight article highlights the need to reduce greenhouse gases and to increase public awareness of the impact climate change had on people’s health.  In New Jersey there are 590,000 adults and 180,000 children that have a chronic respiratory disease.  The asthma rates for adults and children are higher in NJ (9%) than the national average of 8.4% for children and 7.6% for adults. Climate change also exacerbates allergic reactions and infectious diseases. It seems like we have many reasons to keep working on reducing emissions and take steps to improve our health.

This Saturday will be a good day to go out, enjoy the great weather and leave your car at home.  Maybe you can even try extending your active travel to 2 or more days a week by choosing one of the following:

  • Public transit – you can find info about traveling by bus and train in Ocean and Mercer County
  • Try bike commuting and if while you’re at it sign up for Bike to Work Week and get a free t-shirt; you can find more information about bike commuting, bike lockers, ask for maps, and more
  • Give carpooling and vanpooling a try, you can start once or twice a week and go from there – more information and registration form are available here.
  • And if you don’t have a choice and have to drive, why not go electric?!? Kudos if you already did. A lot of Americans were buying trucks and SUVs last year because the gas prices are so low, and while these vehicles may have better fuel economy than they once did, they are still impacting the environment in a negative way.

We know there are many people out there who made active commuting a lifestyle. Many people take the bus or train, bike and walk to work and that is great. Kudos everyone and we hope to see even more.

Happy Earth day and we hope you enjoy the outdoors this weekend.

 

Sources:

http://www.earthday.org/campaigns/green-cities/green-your-ride/

http://inhabitat.com/fascinating-earth-day-facts-that-you-may-not-know/

https://motiondigest.com/2017/04/18/earth-week-2017-lets-go-green-commuting/

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/17/04/18/is-climate-change-already-aggravating-asthma-other-diseases-in-new-jersey/?utm_source=NJ+Spotlight++Master+List&utm_campaign=714520017d-Daily_Digest2_5_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1d26f473a7-714520017d-398644857

Street Smart Campaign Back in Princeton

7 Apr

Greater Mercer TMA and the Municipality of Princeton will kick off the second phase of the Street Smart campaign during April 10- April 14 in Princeton.  The first phase was conducted in October 2016 with a street level pedestrian safety initiative focusing on outreach and education designed to change unsafe behavior by pedestrians and drivers on our streets. In the second phase, GMTMA, Princeton Police, and Princeton University Safety will be back with outreach and education and enforcement.  Before the enforcement period starts, let’s review some of these safety tips.

Pedestrian Safety Tips

  • Cross the Street at marked crosswalks and intersections
  • Before crossing, look left, look right, and left again
  • Use pedestrian pushbuttons
  • Begin crossing the street on “walk” signal
  • Stay visible after dark and in bad weather
  • Watch out for trucks and buses backing out of parking spaces and driveways

Cycling Tips

  • Obey all regulatory signs and traffic lights
  • Never ride against traffic, ride with the traffic to avoid potential crashes
  • Use hand signals to tell motorists what you intend to do
  • Ride in a straight line at least a car door’s width away from parked cars
  • Always a wear a helmet
  • Use lights at night and when visibility is poor

Driver Tips

  • Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks
  • Slow down and obey the posted speed limit
  • Yield to pedestrians and cyclists when turning
  • Look before opening your door
  • Be careful when passing stopped vehicles
  • Allow 3 feet when passing bicyclists
  • Do not drive distracted

And if you are curious about what the laws say click here.

Enjoy the spring weather and remember to be safe!