Safe Routes 2 School Home
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Our goal is to get more children traveling safely to school on foot or bike with greater frequency
  1. Who is Involved?
  2. Fitting a Team Together
  3. Create Agreements
  4. Collect Information
  1. Events
  2. Contests
  3. Teach Children in the Classroom
  4. Map the Routes
  1. Escort Programs
  2. Carpools and Buses
  3. Keep Your Program Alive

  • The Champions
    Champions are individuals whose passion and enthusiasm will give life to the program. Every SR2S program needs at least one champion. The champion can be a teacher, a principal, even a child, but usually the champions are parents who want to ensure a safer environment for their own children. Often they are avid walkers or bicyclists and set a positive example with their own travel behavior. Champions are the key organizers of the program, overseeing activities at their school and working with champions from other schools to share ideas.

  • The Safe Routes to School Team
    A SR2S team, organized by the champion(s), consists of parents, children, teachers, principals, and neighbors of a single school. The team should seek to gain official school status, either as a committee of the PTA or as a part of the school’s Site Council or Safety Committee. The team gathers information about their school through surveys and traffic counts, organizes incentive-based events and contests to encourage students to try new modes of transportation, and promotes the program through school newsletters and other means to reach parents and students.

  • The Safe Routes to School Task Force
    SR2S teams within a common geographic area are often more successful and have a wider sphere of influence when they unite to form a community-wide SR2S Task Force. The SR2S Task Force should involve neighbors, city and school staff members, and elected officials. This community-wide Task Force can produce a comprehensive document for the whole community that can be easily reviewed and addressed by the public agency responsible for street improvements. This SR2S Improvement Plan can include recommended infrastructure enhancements to the areas surrounding the schools, increased traffic enforcement, and community education to promote safety.

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The community-wide Task Force serves as an access point to these officials. If your program is not a part of a Task Force, notify city officials yourself. Officials from your local municipality are important partners because they can provide resources, are effective in building community support, and can influence policies that will lead to improved bicycle and pedestrian travel facilities. Contact law enforcement personnel, city council members, and public works and public health staff members and describe your plan to form a SR2S team and what you hope to accomplish through this program. Invite them to your first meeting and continue to keep them informed.

In your letters to these community leaders, outline the resources you need. Traffic engineers and the public works department can provide maps and help to evaluate the safety conditions near your school (See the Safe Streets Toolkit). Law enforcement can patrol your event and provide safety training for the children. Elected officials can help make key decisions and build community support. Tell these partners how their efforts will meet their department’s goals, that it will be a useful public relations tool, and will improve the health and safety of the community.

Your program should involve the following stakeholders:

  • Parents
  • StudentsTeachers
  • Neighbors
  • School Staff Members
  • City or County Staff Members
  • Elected Officials
  • Businesses
  • Community Groups
  • Law Enforcement/Crossing Guards

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It is important to have the cooperation of all agencies responsible for implementing a SR2S program. Get partnership agreements from your local municipality, the school board and principal of your school (see Resources for samples). These agreements should indicate that the agency supports the program and will participate by providing staff resources. City governments need to provide police enforcement for events and enlist the cooperation of the public works department in mapping the routes and identifying safety improvements. The principal and school board need to set aside some class time for the program and be willing to help promote events and contests.

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The first step for any SR2S program is to collect your baseline data through surveys and traffic counts (See Promotions Toolkit for details) to learn how students currently arrive at school.

  • Student surveys will enable you to determine how children get to school. A quick daily show of hands during homeroom is often enough to get a feel for student travel habits at your school.

  • Traffic counts will supplement this information by determining how many vehicles enter school grounds to drop off children.

  • Parent surveys measure attitudes and identify obstacles and opportunities for changing behavior.

  • Traffic and crash data, which can be obtained from your state’s department of transportation and department of public health, will help to convince officials of the project’s importance.

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Walk and Bike to School Days are a great way to inaugurate your program and generate enthusiasm (see Promotions section for details on organizing this event). International Walk to School Day, held the first Wednesday in October, offers an opportunity to plug your school into a successful worldwide movement. Schools across the nation have used this event to launch ongoing and permanent safety and education programs, and secure funding for street improvements. Schools that have success with International Walk to School Day can keep the energy alive by organizing Walk and Bike to School Days, either weekly or monthly. Even if you start with a small number of ongoing participants, continue to promote your events and they will have a cumulative and lasting effect. Other event ideas are described in the Promotions section.

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Contests are an ideal way to get children’s attention and motivate them to try something new. Contests can take many forms. Children can think about real world issues through art projects or essays. Challenge students to travel to school in different ways and reward them either individually or reward the entire class. The ultimate goal is to engage students through a contest to discover the value in walking or biking to school, without receiving an award.

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Teaching children basic pedestrian and bicycle skills is vital to the success of your SR2S program. Rodeos and obstacle courses are examples of fun activities for students. Teaching health, fitness, and the environmental consequences of various transportation modes enhances children’s ability to make healthy choices in their lives, which will have a positive impact on the community and our Earth.

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The Safe Routes to School Task Force focuses on developing a Safe Routes to School Improvement Plan. The SR2S Task Force will identify a focused area surrounding the schools, mapping the routes that children currently take to school, suggest safer routes when necessary, and recommend improvements. Walk the routes in groups and identify safety issues, using the Safe Routes Checklist and locating them on a map. Involve the students and have them map the routes themselves. Those who walk and ride regularly already are familiar with their streets, while those who do not, will begin to learn about their neighborhood. Working with local government staff, develop a SR2S Improvement Plan for addressing such safety issues as speeding cars, dangerous intersections, and missing or ineffective crosswalks, sidewalks, and bike lanes.

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Many parents would like to allow their children to walk or bike to school but are afraid of letting them walk or bike alone. Escort programs address the immediate need for safety and complement more permanent infrastructure improvements. The “Walking School Bus” (or “Bike Train”) involves adult volunteers who accompany children to school, stopping at designated locations where children can join the “bus” or “train” at pre-arranged times (see more about the “Walking School Bus” in the Safe Streets section). Escort programs require a commitment of volunteer resources and good coordination.

A crossing guard program can train volunteers to help children cross the road. School districts should be encouraged to place guards at particularly dangerous crossings. Other escort programs provide monitors on the street or find neighbors to offer their homes as Safe Houses. This is a form of community participation that urban visionary Jane Jacobs called “Eyes on the Street,” and is particularly useful in urban areas where crime is a major concern.

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Many children live too far from school to expect them to walk or bike to school. This is especially true for children who attend private schools. Some schools offer a bus program, using yellow school buses or through agreements with city bus services. If so, include a carpooling and bus component in all your SR2S activities and encourage parents to form carpools with special incentives such as preferred drop-off areas for carpools. Hold neighborhood coffees at the beginning of the school year to help parents meet their neighbors and arrange carpools. In addition, create special contests for parents who carpool, with awards such as free baby-sitting or romantic get-a-ways. Organized “Walking School Buses” and “Bike Trains” can become carpools on stormy days.

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It takes time to develop new cultural attitudes about transportation. Be sure to reintroduce your program every year at the beginning of the school year. You should:

  • Hold a kick-off event or assembly to get students excited.
  • Notify parents by including information about the program in the parent packages that are mailed home at the start of the school year.
  • Hold regular SR2S team meetings at a time when most interested people can attend.
  • Meet with the principal and teachers at the beginning of the year to plan in-classroom activities for the year.
  • Hold neighborhood coffees to encourage parents to form “Walking School Buses,” “Bike Trains,” and carpools.
  • Keep your school community up-to-date on the latest street improvements. Every new success builds increased support for the program.
  • Keep measuring your success through new surveys. The greatest satisfaction comes from seeing the increase in the number of children walking and biking to school and the reduction of cars entering the school grounds.
  • Be sure to inform your community through press releases and newsletter articles.
  • Join government advisory groups and attend city council and school board meetings.
  • Reward yourselves and celebrate every success, large or small.

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