Safe Routes to School Update

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Seward News by Matthew Hendricks

March 2017 | The Seward Safe Routes group is very pleased to report that the City of Minneapolis has decided to close 29th Avenue at the Midtown Greenway for good. The community has been enjoying the safety benefits of a test closure for almost two years. On the morning of January 31st, a group of students, parents, and local residents from various blocks of 29th Avenue attended the City’s Transportation and Public Works committee to watch the discussion. After the committee voted to approve staff’s recommendation to keep 29th Avenue closed, the delegation from Seward applauded staff and council members.

The timing and design of the permanent closure have not been finalized, but the hope is that installation will happen in Summer 2017, along with a mix of other traffic-calming measures installed along 29th Avenue and 24th Street.

The support of Council Members Cam Gordon, Abdi Warsame, and Andrew Johnson made this outcome possible. Each of these Council Members has constituents who attend Seward Montessori. Each was receptive and supportive when they heard from their constituent families about how important safe streets are.

I also want to specifically mention some parents and teachers who have been champions of progress at Seward. 

Rolf Scholtz, a parent volunteer, has put an incredible amount of energy into building the Bike Sharks program. Under Rolf’s leadership, the Bike Sharks program has grown the student bike commuter population at Seward to over 100 riders on the busiest days. Dozens more students now have their own bikes thanks to Rolf’s work coordinating volunteers, transporting and repairing bikes, and a partnership with Free Bikes 4 Kids. Rolf has led group rides to school from the Cedar Riverside towers, growing that event from three to roughly 20 students. Thanks to a partnership with the school district and multiple grants that Rolf secured, Seward now has a bike fleet that can be used for traffic safety training and field trips. This is only a partial list of Rolf’s work at Seward, but it helps portray how foundational his efforts have been in making Seward a place where all students have access to bikes and bike education.

Hillary Oppmann and Brian Cornell also deserve special recognition. Hillary launched and continues to spearhead the Walking Wednesdays program. She has also helped organize and chaperone countless bike rides and related events, including the trips to City Hall. Brian is the graphics and communications guru for Seward’s biking and walking programs. He has helped build a volunteer-tracking system for classroom rides and also frequently joins rides and events.

Lisa Herr and Jody Volk are both teachers at Seward and have led many group rides with students. Jody is our school’s health teacher, and thanks to her, every 4th and 5th grade student has had the chance to learn to bike and take rides in the neighborhood. Lisa teaches an E2 class, and her students have taken field trips by bike to Minnehaha Falls, Gold Medal Park and Minneapolis City Hall. On these rides, students learn traffic safety skills, get a better sense of the city’s geography and an understanding of how far they can go on a bicycle.

By mentioning a handful of people by name, I am omitting many people who truly deserve to be recognized as well. All of the successes at Seward are made possible by a small army of parent volunteers, neighborhood residents, and staff from the school, and the school district. Everyone involved should be very proud of your work to make Seward Montessori School, and the surrounding neighborhood, a place where students can learn to bike safely.

If you have any questions about next steps, please contact me at: hendricks612@gmail.com

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Students at City Hall encourage City staff to recommend keeping 29th Avenue closed