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Megan Ramey named Safe Routes to School Manager

After receiving the Oregon Department of Education (ODOT) Safe Routes to School grant in June, Megan Ramey was named the manager of the program for Hood River County School District (HRCSD). Ramey is the mother of a HRCSD student and is an advocate for safe routes to school. 

“I am really passionate about kids walking, rolling and biking to school, giving them childhood independence, health and a sense of place. ,” Ramey said. “Providing mobility education to our Hood River County students while helping our City, County and Parks District build sidewalks, trails and bikeways that give students safe passage  from home to school and beyond, is important to me.”

As Ramey assumes this new role, she is developing a work plan and is focused on four areas: education, equity, communication, and infrastructure. Throughout the development planned, Ramey plans to keep the community informed of opportunities available to students and families. 

ODOT provided funds to the City of Hood River for the planning identification process (PIP) related to the Safe Routes to School grant two years ago. This robust community engagement process developed a 92-page plan identified over 30 infrastructure recommendations to make  safer routes from homes to May Street Elementary School and Hood River Middle School and was ultimately adopted by City Council. Another priority recommendation was to apply for the Safe Routes to School Education grant funding the position awarded to Ramey. Moving through the PIP was an accomplishment of the City of Hood River and HRCSD and Ramey will be working with the County to apply for the PIP grant, giving the 6 other schools in the county the same planning love.

Simultaneously, in October 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning, former May Street Elementary School principal, Kelly Beard, recognized teachers were anxious to see their students. The school, with the support of Ramey, organized a student bike parade by the school one day. More than 100 students and parents participated in this memorable day. Students and parents circled May Street Elementary School on their bikes, and teachers stood outside the school, waving their hands and smiling in excitement. 

“After several months being isolated to one’s house due to COVID-19, this gathering by bike was really powerful,” Ramey said. 

When in-person school resumed in March 2021, Beard asked Ramey to “conduct”a bike train to and from school to mitigate congestion from vehicle drop-offs. A bike train is just like a school bus with a daily route and schedule, picking up students as it winds through neighborhoods. Parents feel safer letting their kids ride to school in the company of other parents. Not only did over 20 kids from two neighborhoods feel the joy of riding to school, they gained valuable riding etiquette skills while learning the safest routes. 

In fall of 2021, Ramey, through Anson’s Bike Buddies, received a $20,000 grant from ODOT to expand the bike train to include a walking bus,  partner with PE teachers to host bike safety rodeos, and build a bike donation pipeline between Anson’s Bike Buddies and families in need. Kindergarten and 5th grade students at May Street and Mid Valley Elementary Schools,   learned how to ride a bike including traffic law and etiquette and 50 students received free bikes through the program. For the next two years, every student in the county, K-8, will receive this education and opportunity.

Ramey is exploring ways to partner with the high school to offer “E-biker’s Ed”for students. In Oregon, it is illegal for individuals who are 16 and under to ride ebikes. 

To give parents and our community another level of reassurance that Ramey will be a competent educator of students walking, rolling and bike safety, she is earning League Cycling Instructor certification through a three-day, League of American Bicyclists seminar this month: “their goal is to help people feel more secure about riding by educating cyclists and motorists and to ensure that people on bikes know how to ride safely and legally.”

Hood River Parks and Recreation serves as a partner on the Safe Routes to School grant. Part of that partnership includes a focus on completing sections of the Indian Creek trail, connecting students to the high school, rural students to the middle school, and community members to businesses.