What is Safe Routes to Schools
The Marin County Bicycle Coalition has been a leader in the Safe Routes to Schools movement for six years. Safe Routes to Schools is designed to increase the number of children walking and biking to school. A SR2S program integrates health, fitness, traffic relief, environmental awareness and safety under one program. It is an opportunity to work closely with your school, your community and your local government to create a healthy lifestyle for children and a safer and cleaner environment for everyone.
The program has four components:
- Encouragement - Events, contests and promotional materials are incentives that encourage children and parents to try walking and biking. We can provide your community with promotional and contest materials, and ongoing consultation.
- Education - Classroom lessons teach children the skills necessary to navigate through busy streets and persuade them to be active participants in the program. We have developed curriculum which includes traffic safety and lessons on health and the environment. We can assist you in finding the right classroom materials for your community.
- Engineering – Examine the physical barriers that prohibit children from safely navigating the routes to schools. We partner with engineering experts who can assist your community in learning how to evaluate streets and provide the tools to create a safer environment
- Enforcement – Partner with law enforcement to increase the police presence around schools. Driver’s education is even more effective in changing the behavior of harried parents and commuters who are not paying attention to the children on the roads. We have accumulated some of the best tools in the country to assist you in developing a comprehensive traffic safety program.
Why Safe Routes is Important
Did you walk or bike to school when you were young? In 1969, 50% of all children walked to school (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Walking or biking to school gives children a taste of freedom and responsibility, allows them to enjoy the fresh air and the opportunity to get to know their neighborhood, while arriving at school alert, refreshed and ready to start their day. Yet most American children are denied this experience --today, only 15% of America's children walk or bike to school (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
According to local studies, 21-27% of morning traffic is attributed to parents driving their children to school . This has caused increased traffic congestion around schools, prompting even more parents to drive their kids. The consequences to our children, to their health and to the health of the community are extensive.
A successful Safe Routes to Schools program improves the health and safety of pupils and the surrounding neighborhood. Students increase their physical activity, potentially improving their alertness and behavior. California studies have shown that children who are physically active perform better academically (California Department of Education, December 2002). Safe Routes to Schools can also satisfy the physical activity component of your Wellness Policy.
Cities with existing programs have experienced reduced traffic congestion, reduced collision in and around schools, and decreased speed in residential neighborhoods. Children learn valuable traffic safety skills and responsibility and more people of all ages are able to walk and bike in the neighborhood as a result of improved access.
What We Offer
The Safe Routes to Schools program offers communities:
- Train the trainers – we’ll prepare your champions and staff in the basic steps of developing a Safe Routes to Schools program
- Community training – We will assist you in gathering the right stakeholders together and train the whole community in Safe Routes to Schools
- A Safe Routes to Schools Toolkit with templates and forms
- Technical assistance with start-up
- Technical assistance with the development of promotional materials
- Classroom lessons
- Ongoing consultation
In August 2000, Marin County Bicycle Coalition was funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop a national model Safe Routes to Schools programs. Congressman James Oberstar, ranking Democrat of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure endorsed the program as a means to reduce traffic congestion around schools and promote healthy alternatives. The Marin Community Foundation supplemented the program with a $25,000 grant. The City of Fairfax also received a $25,000 grant as one of ten pilot programs sponsored by the California Department of Health Services.
Marin County is a suburban community north of San Francisco with many historic small towns and miles of open space. Despite its low population growth, traffic congestion has grown increasingly worse with 21% of the morning commute consisting of parents driving their children to school (Marin Congestion Management Agency) To demonstrate the benefits of Safe Routes to Schools, the Marin County Bicycle Coalition recruited nine pilot schools in four different geographic locations. Initial surveys reported that 73% of the students were arriving by car with 14% walking and 7% biking to school and 6% arriving by bus.
Each school received guidance, forms, newsletters and other promotional materials. In two towns, schools were grouped together to form citywide task forces to study engineering solutions for safety issues on the routes to schools. A transportation engineer was hired to assist in developing these plans. Every school held periodic Walk and Bike to School Days and participated in the Frequent Rider Miles contest which rewarded children who came to school walking, biking, by carpool or bus. At the end of the pilot program the schools experienced a 57% increase in the number of children walking and biking and a 29% decrease in the number of children arriving alone in a car.
Marin’s Success Story
Marin County adopted the Safe Routes to Schools program in 2003 and the Marin Congestion Management Agency funded the program through federal funding through the Enhancements program and through the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s Transportation for Clean Air Funding award. Then in November 2004, the voters of Marin passed a ½ cent transportation sales tax which include 11% of its funding for Safe Routes to Schools including program, crossing guards and infrastructure. It is now a program of the Transportation Authority of Marin and continues to be implemented by the Marin County Bicycle Coalition with it's partners on the consulting team, Parisi Associates and Nelson Nygaard.. We are now assisting TAM in creating a plan for a long-term sustainable program that is institutionalized in the schools with strong community involvement.
National Safe Routes to Schools
On August 10, 2005 , SAFETEA-LU, the new federal transportation bill that provides $286.5 billion in funding through September 2009, became law. It includes a $612 million appropriation for a new national Safe Routes to School program that will provide benefits in all 50 states. Communities will use this funding to construct new bike lanes, pathways, and sidewalks, as well as to launch Safe Routes education and promotion campaigns in elementary and middle schools. Each state is required to hire a full time Safe Routes to Schools coordinator. Many states have already issued requests for projects.
Safe Routes to Schools is a program that is exploding across America . To find out how you can start a Safe Routes to Schools in your community and get expert training and advice, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org