Education Professionals

Create a Safe Routes to Schools Program

Safe Routes to School programs make it safe, convenient, and fun for children to be able to walk to and from schools. The program targets pedestrian and bicycle improvements around schools and is based on evaluation, education, encouragement, enforcement, and engineering

Guidance
  • Form a Safe Routes team at the school including parents, school officials, and city officials
  • Form a task force at the city or school-district level to encourage collaboration between the city and schools to improve traffic safety and promote the program
  • Prioritize schools based on traffic-safety needs
  • Use the 5E’s:
    • Evaluation: Start with an evaluation of existing conditions at the school or school district. Use standardized data-collection forms for student tallies and parent surveys
    • Engineering: Begin with a community walking audit of barriers for children walking and bicycling to school. Request signal timing based on the slower walking speeds of children (3′ per second)
    • Education: Teach children bicycle and pedestrian traffic-safety skills in the classroom. Educating parents to drive safely also improves traffic safety
    • Encouragement: Organize walk- and bike-to-school days, contests, and other promotions to encourage walking. Also set up walking school buses and bike trains (parent-led programs where neighbors to walk with children)
    • Enforcement: Partner with law enforcement to station crossing guards at street corners
  • Implement improvements: Use regular maintenance funds for short-term improvements such as striping and signage. Apply to departments of transportation for longer-term infrastructure needs, or find additional funding
  • Use the Safe Routes to School to School National Partnership’s Local Policy Guide to support the program
Benefits
  • Creates a safer walking environment for everyone using the streets
  • Induces drivers to slow down
  • Encourages walking as a transportation option
  • Increases physical activity
  • Interests policy makers in other walking strategies
Considerations
  • Limited federal funding
  • Negotiating neighborhood desires when implementing infrastructure improvements
  • Parents will like solutions that involve parental supervision
Where to Use It
  • Federal funds must be spent within 2 miles of schools on infrastructure improvements
  • Drop-off zones where parents and buses can drop off children who live farther away to walk the rest of the way to school
Professional Consensus
Examples
  • The Federal government mandates a full-time Safe Routes to School program coordinator within the departments of transportation of all 50 states
  • As of December 2011, more than 12,300 schools in 50 states received federal funding for Safe Routes to School programs

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.