Written by Ashley Christensen for the November Upper Explorerland Newsletter

We wanted to take a moment and introduce you to our two partners working alongside us in the Iowa Safe Routes Partnership, a comprehensive program that assists communities with implementing Safe Routes initiatives to encourage active school travel and safe community routes across Iowa. Funding for this effort is provided by the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Just to refresh your memory, UERPC’s regional Safe Routes program (9 years young!) is led by April Bril and Ashley Christensen. We serve Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek Counties. We also do a little work in Chickasaw County. April has been involved with Safe Routes for 4 1/2 years, and Ashley has been involved with Safe Routes for 8 1/2 years. We did have a couple of Walking School Buses walk this fall in Maynard and Decorah (fun fact:  this route walks to school daily all school year round!), but otherwise most of our programming is currently on pause until spring. 

Back row- Jared Morford (IBC), Brenda Vavroch (INRCOG), Ashley Christensen (UERPC) and April Bril (UERPC); Front row with bikes:  Tavin Bril and Tessa Bril.

Brenda Vavroch is the Safe Routes to School Coordinator for Iowa Northland Council of Governments (INRCOG) and serves Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Chickasaw and Grundy Counties. INRCOG’s regional Safe Routes program was formed in 2016. And while Brenda has been with the program for less than a month (a newbie!), she brings with her a passion for youth development and is ready to jump right into the Safe Routes world!

Jared Morford is the Safe Routes to School Program Manager for the Iowa Bicycle Coalition (IBC) and is in charge of bringing Safe Routes efforts to the remaining areas of the state not served by UERPC or INRCOG (88 counties!). IBC has been involved with Safe Routes work since 2007 when the organization developed the Iowa Safe Routes Partnership. With one year of experience now in the books, Jared is ready to focus on program sustainability. 

Last week, our three organizations joined forces for a Bike Rodeo training in Decorah. Brenda and Jared haven’t yet had the opportunity to set up and lead a Bike Rodeo safety education event, and since UERPC has hosted Bike Rodeos a time or two (or 60+…but who’s counting…) over the years, we thought it would be fun to set-up a mock Bike Rodeo course in the UERPC parking lot to help introduce Brenda and Jared to the activity.

The November heat wave had moved on by the time we were able to meet, but we still had a great time teaching and learning the ins and the outs of Bike Rodeos. And because of distance learning, we had the unique opportunity to invite some local distance learning families to join in on the fun! Including April and her kids!

The Iowa Safe Routes Partnership is here to serve you! Don’t hesitate to reach out to any of our three organizations to learn more about how we can work together to encourage active school travel and safe community routes in your community: