Safe Routes to School
A Safe Routes to School program is an opportunity to make walking and bicycling to school safer and more accessible for children, including those with disabilities, and to increase the number of children who choose to walk and bicycle. Safe Routes to School programs can benefit communities by enhancing children’s health and well-being, easing traffic congestion and air quality near schools, and improving community members’ overall quality of life.
Safe Route Movement
The Safe Routes to School Movement is a broad based network of public agencies, community based organizations, pedestrian and bicycle advocates, parents, teachers, principals and public health leaders and more – all working to support and encourage walkable and bikeable communities and address the alarming public health issue of the pressing childhood obesity rates.
The process for starting a Safe Routes to School program is unique to each school and community. The following may provide you with some guidance in getting a program going:
Talk with parents, the PTA, the school principal, and/or other concerned individuals to gauge interest and enlist support. If you have a walk or bicycle advocacy organization in your area, consider enlisting their help as well. For guidance in working with education professionals, see the SRTS National Partnership’s resource guide. Also, see Resources for Engaging Schools and Principals below.
Collect information to support your concerns
One way to do this is to complete a walkability checklist of the school. You can also access a walkability checklist form. You want to document the problems you see so that you have something concrete to share with those who may be able to help you address the issues.
Share your findings with your identified partners and look for solutions
What you find may require simple, low-cost fixes and your partners may know of or have resources to help address them. If your findings are bigger (and potentially more costly), you should share them with your local public works department. They may be able to add any infrastructure projects to their “to do” list. They would also be the ones to partner with if you think your school or school district should apply for Safe Routes to School funding.
Make a simple plan
Make a plan that includes education, encouragement, enforcement, engineering, and evaluation strategies.
Get the plan and people moving by holding a fun kickoff event like Walk to School Day or Walk and Roll Wednesday.
Evaluate, adjust, and keep moving
To sustain the program, consider recruiting additional program champions and let people know about your successes.
The information and resources here will assist with starting and sustaining a range of Safe Routes to School activities.
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership (SRTSNP) is a non-profit advocacy organization that works to promote policy change and increase funding levels at the federal, state, and regional level. The National Partnership builds coalitions around the key policy areas of complete streets, joint use agreements, and transportation funding.
The Southern California Safe Routes to School Network is a project of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and is generously funded by grants from Kaiser Permanente. The Southern California Network connects partners through the Southern California region to build coalitions and share best practices.
California Active Transportation Resource Center (ATRC) assists California’s communities with resources, technical assistance, and training materials to implement active transportation projects. The ATRC is funded by the California Transportation Commission as part of the Active Transportation Program (ATP), and is administered by the California Department of Transportation.
The National Center for Safe Routes to School assists states and communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bicycle to school. The National Center serves as the information clearinghouse for the federal Safe Routes to School program. The organization also provides technical support and resources and coordinates online registration efforts for U.S. Walk to School Day and facilitates worldwide promotion and participation. The National Center is a project of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
To support the national goal of better health through physical activity, CDC’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Program has developed KidsWalk-to-School. This is a community-based program that aims to increase opportunities for daily physical activity by encouraging children to walk to and from school in groups accompanied by adults.
Sources: California Safe Routes to School, Safe Routes To School National Partnership