Newton North Student Encourages Biking to School

What are the challenges students face when they bike to school? And how can the city improve their experience? These are a few questions that Dina Gorelik, Newton North High School Senior and President of the Newton North Bike Club, answered on May 21, 2020, during the webinar “Transportation after the Covid Crisis: Priorities for moving forward”. 

Watch the FULL program HERE

SEE DINA’S PRESENTATION HERE

When thinking about going back to school, it’s important to focus on sustainable healthy transportation, and that is what the three program speakers brought to the discussion. The program featured several good ideas on how to accelerate efforts to create transportation that is safe and supports our environmental goals to reduce air pollution.

  • Ann Lusk, PhD, Harvard Chan School of Public Health proposed real solutions  for communities to develop new transportation policies and processes by building pilot cycle tracks, testing the designs and counting riders. (See at: 3’49” –  38’38”)
  • Dina Gorelik made a compelling case for students biking to school and how the city can improve road safety (See at: 38’40” – 48’30”) – Her presentation is available here
  • Galen Mook, Executive Director of MassBike, Massachusetts’ statewide bicycle advocacy organization, talked about bicycling amenities in Covid-recovery, how to include schools and achieve safe to school goals (See at: 48’32” – 1 18’46”) 

The webinar was co-sponsored by The Newton Free Library, Green Newton, Bike Newton, and the League of Women Voters Newton.

Our Neighbors: “Ashland High senior looks to curb emissions by prodding drivers about not running cars while parked”

Original post from The Metro West Daily News – 

By Cesareo Contreras / 
Daily News Staff, Jan 30, 2020

Ashland High School senior Molly Gun has made it her mission to encourage people to curb a common habit that many don’t realize takes a toll on the environment.

ASHLAND – For some people, combating the effects of climate change can seem like a daunting task. But the way Molly Gun sees it, even small actions can have a large impact. Since last May, the Ashland High School senior has made it her mission to encourage people to curb a common habit that many don’t realize takes a toll on the environment: allowing their cars and trucks to idle.

Using a $500 grant she received from the Merlyn Education and Climate Protection Project, a Rhode Island nonprofit, Gun has spread the word throughout her school of the environmental benefits of not idling. And for the past few weeks, she has been attending meetings with the town’s Sustainability Committee trying to integrate her mission with the town’s resolution of completely offsetting its emissions by 2040.

“I chose idling because it’s really just mindless and with a little bit of mindfulness it’s an issue that could be dramatically reduced.” Gun, 18, said in a recent interview.

Running a car for more than 10 minutes is worse for the environment than actually driving it at 30 mph, Gun said. Drivers who leave their cars running for more than 15 seconds actually end up wasting more gas than if they were to restart their engines, she said.

Transportation remains the largest-growing source of greenhouse emissions in the state, making up more than 40% of them, according to Katie Gronendyke, press secretary for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Personal vehicles in the U.S. generate about 30 million tons of carbon dioxide every year from idling alone, according to the U.S. Department of Energy & Renewable Energy. Under state law, motorists who allow their vehicles to idle for more than 5 minutes can be fined $100 for a first offense. Second and subsequent offenses are subject to higher fines.

Ashland High School has two signs in front of the school, where students get on buses, describing the law and the associated penalties. But there are no signs in the back of the school, where many students are picked up.

Using the grant, Gun created stickers and air fresheners with the phrase: “Be mindful: Don’t idle. Turn off your engine.” She was able to post the signs outside her school, encouraging parents and students to turn off their engines while waiting inside their vehicle. She is also drafting a brief letter in hopes of having it included in weekly emails the school sends to parents.

“Well this is our future, basically,” said Gun. “It gets scarier and scarier every day, especially when you don’t see people making the changes that they need to. It just seems like we are at a standstill and a lot of times, it’s easy to feel like we are stuck and nothing is getting done.”

High School Principal Kelley St. Couer said she would gladly include Gun’s letter in her emails to parents. “I think it’s a great idea. I applaud her and the other kids that are always working on ways to help the environment,” she said.

As part of the Merlyn Education and Climate Protection Project, Gun was assigned a mentor. Grants Director Jim Stahl thought the best person for the job was Sharon Gold, of South Kingstown, Rhode Island, who worked to get an anti-idling resolution passed in her town.

“She is one exceptional human being,” Gold said of Gun in a recent telephone interview. “You give her a suggestion and she just flies with it. She’s just an exceptional young woman who really cares about the environment.”

Stahl said Gun’s grant application stood out because it was a realistic project of which Gun seemed enthusiastic and passionate.

“She seemed to have the drive to execute her own goals,” he said. “The other thing that we liked is that we knew that if her program was successful, it would call attention to itself. We have been delighted to see that is exactly what happened.”

Stahl is encouraged by the number of young people working to fight climate change, pointing to 17-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. It is a movement happening globally, nationally and locally.

“There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Greta Thunbergs right in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and other New England states,” Stahl said. “Our goal is to find them and support them. Their moral voice is undeniable, and I think the adults are listening.”

In the past year, the Merlyn Climate program has awarded nine grants to young adults. Grants range from $500 to $3,000, Stahl said.

He said one student is starting a kelp farm in Maine. Another is studying climate change’s impact on the Bronx River in New York. Others are leaders in the Sunrise Movement, a nonprofit that advocates for more government policies addressing climate change.

Matthew Marshquist, chairman of the Ashland Sustainability Committee, said Gun’s initiative could blend nicely with the town’s net-ero resolution.

“There’s some big things we can do to reduce emissions from transportation – like infrastructure changes to make the community more walkable,” he said. “But those are regional changes that require significant funding. So this idea of reducing idling doesn’t cost anything. This practice would actually save money.

Gun is co-president of the National Youth Council at Project Green Schools, a nonprofit whose goal is to develop the next generation of environmental leaders. She hasn’t yet decided where she will go to college, but said she plans to study sustainability and public health. She said she has given a lot of thought to becoming a sustainability coordinator or working to address public health threats.

To keep the initiative alive after she graduates from Ashland High this spring, Gun has been collaborating with the school’s environmental club.

“We all just have think a little bit more about what we are doing and how that impacts the word,” she said.

Cesareo Contreras writes about environmental issues and technology for the Daily News. He can be reached at 508-626-3957 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @cesareo_r.

Idling on School Grounds

Newton South student Sophie Lewis wrote an article about how “illegal idling on school grounds is a popular morning habit among students, prompting environmental concerns”.  The piece was published in the December 2019 issue of  The Lion’s Roar, the student newspaper of Newton South High School. Below are short excerpts. Please read the full article on pages 12-13.

Car Craze

By Sophie Lewis

“There are 32 parking spots on Brandeis Road that fill up by about 7:15 a.m. While a few students choose to enter the building, most remain in their cars with the engine still running until the bell is about to ring. Some use this time to eat breakfast, others put their seats back and fall back asleep. The habit of leaving a car on while it’s not in motion, or idling, on Brandeis Road isn’t anything new. ”

“Sustainability teacher Andrew Thompson is working with seniors in his classes to think of ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions to incentivize green transportation. He’s interested in providing wellness credits for students who bike to school or creating a shuttle service between South and Newton Centre during lunch so students won’t need to drive their own cars.”

Photos by Netta Dror

Please read the full article on pages 12-13

Walking and Biking to School in the Winter

Yes! We encourage sustainable transportation (which is the theme of Newton students Climate Strike event on Friday, 12/06, by the way ).

Newton Safe Routes to School published a page on their website about “All Things Snow“, including:

  • Newton Residential and Business Snow Ordinances – new for 2019!
  • City routes to schools
And a tip on how to ask for sidewalk service:
 
If uncleared sidewalks are keeping you or your children from getting where you need to go, report them on 311. Download the 311 app, snap a pic, note your location, and hit submit. Be specific with your concern and category. You may report anonymously or login.
 

Free Webinar: Electric School Buses 101

Invitation from the Green Energy Consumers Alliance – 

Electric school buses sound awesome, but you have questions. Join Green Energy Consumers Alliance for a 1-hour webinar to learn the basics and get your questions answered.

We will discuss what electric buses are, how they work, and case studies of where they’re already in use; the environmental, public health, and financial benefits of school bus electrification; and the barriers to adoption. We’ll then explore and consider opportunities to overcome those barriers in Massachusetts. All aboard!

This free webinar will be offered at two different days and times. Select the time that works best for you.

REGISTER TO THE WEBINAR

“Mayor Fuller Inaugurates New Covered Bike Racks”

Original post from The Newtonite – 

by Amy Xue,  November 29, 2019

Mayor Ruthanne Fuller cut the ribbon to reveal the newly installed covered bike racks by the loading dock Friday, Nov. 22 at 3 p.m. Other city officials, principal Henry Turner, and students, including members of the Bike Club, were also in attendance.

Founder and officer of the Bike Club, senior Dina Gorelik, said, “The covered bike racks are helpful because they keep students’ bikes dry on rainy days, making sure that the bike doesn’t rust.”

According to Gorelik, Greengineering students began to design the covered bike racks several years ago. However, students were not permitted to build or install the bike racks, so Bike Newton stepped in to raise money for the project. Newton Public Schools donated to the installation as well.

Junior Grigory Orlov, who bikes to school everyday, said, “I think those bike rack covers are very helpful. It often rains during the school day, and getting onto a wet bike seat is not the most pleasant of things.”

_____________________________

School Connections Editor’s Note

Covered bike parkings were installed at Newton North High School and Newton South High School this fall thanks to a People for Bikes grant Bike Newton received, assistance from Newton Public Schools and DPW +  donations from Newton residents. 

Student Voice: Biking to School

By Arshia Verma (Newton South, Class of 2023), Oct 2019 – 

What is a fun alternative to going to school independently, that is healthy and fun? Biking! Biking to school in Massachusetts is safe according to the state rankings by League of American Bicyclists, since our state is ranked fourth in the U.S. Newton encourages biking by students, and Newton Public Schools (NPS) have shown it by adding bike racks at its schools, which supports healthy habits and climate action. 

The increase of bike racks in 12 out of the 21 schools in Newton has created a lot of buzz, since biking can address climate issues, fix overcrowding buses, and is a healthier option for getting to school. This active transportation has become more supported in students lives due to the increase in bike racks installed in Newton by NPS. Bike Newton – a non-profit 501C3 organization that aims to promote bicycling as a viable method of transportation in Newton – helped paying for bike sheds at the two High Schools.  

A few years ago, Newton embarked on a strategy to make bicycles a desirable option of transportation, be it for commuting or pleasure. Bicycle parking facilities have provided at nodal centers such as major institutions, villages, public buildings, and key transit locations. Now, schools have more options to park their bikes in schools too! Students, of any age, can ride their bike to school and lock them up safely in their designated areas and commute back on their bike when school is over with no hassles. The bike racks creates a feasible way to keep bikes at school and it ensures their safety. 

Newton South High School, one of the two high schools in Newton, has a trial pedestrian path, which is a pathway for students going to school by walking or biking safely. The school is prioritizing students safety and this is another significant reason to travel by bike. According to NPS facilities, “A Phase 1 Trial of safety and circulation improvements was completed at Newton South using flex posts and paint. The trial includes the addition of a separated bike/walk lane from Brandeis Road and also shrinks the entrance and exits with flex posts at the main parent drop-off area to create a more controlled environment. This will be monitored closely and we will look to make further improvements in the future. Principal Stembridge will be handling the communication with staff and students about these improvements.” (Source: Facilities Memo to School Committee – 9-04-19). 

The aim is to ensure the safety and selected spots for bikes and bikers, to decrease emissions released into the air, creating a cleaner atmosphere, and to promote a healthy transportation alternative. 

The bike racks installed in Newton Public Schools have followed the “signs of success” Massachusetts thrives in to follow their criteria for what “biker-friendly” looks like. It’s efficient for parents and students, and makes a better impact in the atmosphere. Give a kid their independence, give them a bike.

Transportation: New Bike Racks at Schools

Over the Summer, new bike racks were installed in 12 Newton schools by the NPS Facilities department.  The schools include: Underwood, Franklin, Horace Mann, Ward, Countryside, Burr, Bowen, Oak Hill, Day, and Bigelow. Thanks to the efforts of Nicole Freedman and Nina Wang with the City in this process. 

At Newton North and South high schools, bike shelters were installed by the City in September. They were paid by Bike Newton, thanks to a grant from People for Bikes and donations from the community. 

Covered bike parking at Newton North High School. Photo by: City of Newton.

School Cases: Zervas encourages families to walk, bike, ride the bus or carpool to school

Original post from Zervas Walks – 

Zervas is celebrating international walk to school day on Friday, October 4.

GETTING TO SCHOOL

WALKWalking is the best way to get to school! Kids love to walk, especially with friends, and it gives them time to wake-up, socialize and expend a little energy so they arrive at school ready to learn. Walking home is a great way to wind down. We encourage all families to walk whenever possible. Zervas is designed as a walkable school.

BIKE – Biking is another great way to get to school! Children in grades K through 3 should bike with an adult. There are bike racks by the front door of the school and at the back playground.  The Newton Police will host bike safety training for Zervas 5th graders again this year.

BUSSchool buses help reduce traffic! If you live more than a mile from school you may be eligible for bus service. Go to the Newton Public Schools transportation website for more information and Zervas bus schedules.

CARParking is extremely limited. Drivers must use the Blue Zone (a “live” drop-off/pick-up zone) or park legally on the street. If you choose to drive, please read this guide and review the map carefully.

SCHOOL ZONE SAFETY

  • Slow down, hang up, and be patient!
  • Kids must always use the crosswalk even with an adult!
  • Never drop off or pick up from a traffic lane or a No Parking or No Standing area – only from the Blue Zone or a legal parking space. There are no parking spaces in front of the Blue Zone.
  • Beethoven Ave is Do Not Enter at drop-off and pick-up headed north. Stay on the east side of the street to allow for emergency vehicles.
  • No turning in driveways — kids are running down the sidewalk that you are crossing!
  • If the Blue Zone is full you cannot wait for spaces to open – it creates dangerous gridlock. Either circle the block or park legally.
  • Don’t back up to exit the Blue Zone – a child might step off the curb behind you!
  • Park legally. Observe all signs.
  • Do not enter the school bus loop or staff parking lot on Beacon St.
  • Never block (or park within 5ft. of, or park in) a private driveway.
  • Never pass a school bus with flashing red lights! It’s the law.

More on the Zervas Walks website

Transportation: How to request anti-idling signs for your school

Unnecessary idling of vehicles is a wasteful and costly practice that harms children’s health and the environment (in addition to the vehicle); in fact, it is against the law to idle for longer than 5 minutes in the state of Massachusetts.

To help support idling reduction efforts in Massachusetts schools, MassDEP offers free anti-idling signage and materials to schools.

In order to request anti-idling signs, please follow the steps suggested by the Newton Safe Routes to School Task Force: 

1. Have your school join The MassDEP Green Team

Register here: https://thegreenteam.org/forms/registration/.
In 2018-2019, the following Newton Schools were registered:  Zervas , Mason Rice, Underwood, Pierce and Newton North.  Please note that membership needs to be renewed annually.

2. Request Equipment

You may request equipment once you have registered.
Go to: https://thegreenteam.org/request-equipment/ and select anti-idling on the right side bar. (form here). It requires the signature of the principal and can be faxed or scanned and emailed. Two options available, and various materials for an anti-idling campaign.

3. Put the signs up

Once the signs come in, the principal can put in a request for the custodian to put them up. A drawing of suggestions for where they should go and specifics of which way they should face are helpful.

 

Please note that new Blue Zone signs that say “No Idling Per State Law” have been ordered by NPS and will go up in late Sept/Oct.  Newton DPW will install the new Blue Zone signs for all schools.

More on idling: