A total of 14 people turned out for last week's introductory meeting to the Safe Routes to School effort in Clintonville.

A total of 14 people turned out for last week's introductory meeting to the Safe Routes to School effort in Clintonville.

Elizabeth Smith, chairwoman of the committee of the nonprofit organization Safer Streets for All, said she was delighted.

She was hoping that maybe five people would show up.

"I was thrilled to see how many people were there," Smith said. "Everybody was very positive, very excited about Safe Routes to Schools. It looked like it got off to a good start."

Among those attending was Clintonville Area Commission District 1 representative Mike McLaughlin, who serves as liaison to the education committee.

"I think there was enough enthusiasm there that another meeting was scheduled to continue the conversation," McLaughlin said. "All those attending came away more educated, but I know that we need to get more organizations involved. There's a lot more work that needs to be done."

That next meeting will be on Tuesday, March 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the offices of Consider Biking, 4041 N. High St.

Safe Routes to School is a national program based at the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center. Its goals are not only to ensure that children arrive for classes unharmed, but also that they improve their health in doing so by walking or riding bikes when practical.

Safer Streets for All, the nonprofit umbrella organization under which the Safe Routes to School program operates, was launched last fall. In addition to the Safe Routes to School program, the organization is focusing efforts on supporting the controversial turn lane at the intersection of North High Street and East North Broadway along with programs to promote safer bicycling on Clintonville's streets.

The people who turned up at the inaugural Safe Routes to School committee meeting were there "for all sorts of reasons," according to Smith. Some were concerned about the safety of their children going to school while others expressed worry about their own safety while walking amid bicycling students.

"We also talked about the fact that under the Safe Routes to Schools program we have to come up with an action plan that we would need to fulfill," Smith said.

That would be one of the steps necessary in order to apply for grant money from the state, she said. While the announcement of what groups qualify for the funding won't be made until December, the applications must be turned in by late May or early June.

"There is a lot of work that has to be done," Smith said. "If we don't make this cycle, we can always try for the next."

In the meantime, the focus of the March 15 meeting will be on what can be done now that doesn't require much or any funding, the chairwoman added. Some of the suggestions at last week's meeting, Smith said, included striping school parking lots in order to create bicycle lanes and creating "mileage clubs" with prizes as incentives to encourage students to walk to classes.

"You don't necessarily want to wait a year and a half to get things started," Smith said.

"There are dollars that we want to pursue for infrastructure improvements and safety improvements," McLaughlin said, "but the other aspect of it is an education portion to get children waking to school, or biking, raising their health level and also benefiting the environment, so it's a win-win-win on a lot of categories."

Smith expressed the hope that the work of her group can be something residents of the neighborhood will rally around.

"Right now Clintonville needs about anything it can come up with to get the community working together," she said.