Bear Creek Elementary is an open enrollment school, which means a percentage of families opt in from outside the neighborhood and do not have school bus service. But 67 percent of students live within two miles of the school. Still, before Safe Routes to School, only 25 percent of students were walking or bicycling to school - most were being driven in the family car.
“It’s a matter of honor and pride for the students,” says Kennedy. The school’s encouragement programs are moving away from prizes and focusing on innate pride in commuting choices. Through monthly tallies and public recognition, Bear Creek student’s efforts are recognized daily in the classroom and in prominent displays and events throughout the school.
A City of Boulder study conducted during the first year of Bear Creek’s Car-Free Commute program (2007- 2008) showed a 36 percent reduction in cars and corresponding traffic congestion. During the program’s second year, students accrued 4,800 miles from 6,600 Car-Free Commute trips in a single month (September 2008). As a whole, the school’s culture is changing from motor-powered to foot-powered transportation. In surveys about the Car-Free Commute program, parents are saying “My daughter does not want to miss a day!” or
“My son refuses to take the car.” Students are inspired by the example set by the adults, and adults are prodded by their children into choosing Car-Free Commute — accounting for the 70 percent sustained participation achieved by the program. “We are trying to create a new culture of daily car-free habits in this young generation,” concludes Kennedy.