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Seven elementary schools in Wichita Falls are participating in evaluating the BikeTexas Safe Routes to School Program: Fowler, Franklin, Fain, Huey, Haynes, Jefferson and McGaha. Baseline evaluation data were collected over three days in late-October.
The children were receptive to completing the surveys and excited about the program beginning. One boy talked about how he had been hit by a car several years previously when biking to school. He still bikes but his story emphasizes the need to educate both cyclists and drivers on safety. A local newspaper reporter and photographer interviewed Evaluation Director Lisa Groesz and Local Outreach Coordinator Anne-Marie Williamson on the potential impact of BikeTexas Safe Routes to School on the Wichita Falls community.
This evaluation data will allow the Coalition to determine if the education and encouragement components of BikeTexas Safe Routes to School are effective. Some schools will postpone implementation of the program until Fall 2006 to allow for controlled comparisons between students in the intervention and students in the waitlist schools at follow-up data collection in April. Hopefully, students in the intervention will display an increase in biking and walking to school.
Several other factors are being observed, including the influence of weight, influence of parent modeling of activity, and the influence of gender. In addition, students in the intervention are expected to show an increase in knowledge of cycling, in confidence towards biking and in motivation (i.e. biking is cool).
Survey data and height and weight data have been collected on 108 fourth and fifth grade students, with 70 students in the intervention condition and 38 students in the waitlist condition. Ironically, many parents completed the parent survey without consenting to have their children participate. In contrast to the level of student participation, 190 parents completed the parent survey that assesses parental activity and encouragement of exercise in the household.