Safe Routes to School :: Practice and Promise
   
Promising Practices -
From Whom Can We Learn?
 
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Chapter Four
  Florida  

 

 

 

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Preface


Acknowledgments

   

Florida has been involved in pedestrian and bicycle education since 1982, when the Florida Department of Transportation established its Pedestrian and Bicycle Program to serve as a clearinghouse for information and materials regarding pedestrian and bicycle safety. The Pedestrian and Bicycle Program also developed plans and programs to make it safe, comfortable, and convenient to take trips by walking and bicycling. A 1991 University of Florida study of children's transportation showed that only one in six children traveled to school by walking or bicycling; the rest arrived by school bus or private car. The University of Florida and Florida Department of Transportation collaborated in 1997 to develop a Safe Ways To School pilot project to reduce childhood injuries and fatalities by educating teachers, parents, and children; and to improve conditions that affect children walking and bicycling to and from school. The pilot traffic and bicycle safety education program offered a series of workshops with certificates awarded to elementary and middle school teachers, community volunteers, law enforcement officers, and recreation leaders. The project also involved research, media awareness campaigns, and safety education documents and guidelines.

Description of Efforts

  • Conducted pilot project, Safe Ways To School, at 10 elementary schools from 1997 to 1999:
    • Conducted travel and attitude surveys to assess the various modes of transportation used by students to get to and from school and to identify concerns and barriers to walking/bicycling to school.
    • Combined traffic calming techniques with other school initiatives (e.g., Walking School Bus) and an education program to cultivate a safer environment for children.
    • Developed the Safe Ways To School Toolkit to help schools assess and improve hazardous conditions around schools and the surrounding neighborhoods. The toolkit includes a student survey, a school site design assessment, a neighborhood site assessment, parent and student attitudinal surveys, a video, a “how to” manual, clipboard, pen, and file folders, all in a schoolhouse box carrying case. The Safe Ways To School Toolkit has been distributed to more than 100 schools throughout Florida.
  • Developed a 10-hour teacher workshop for elementary and middle school teachers of Physical Education and Health. Teachers learn to train students in age- appropriate bicycle and traffic safety skills, decision-making skills, balance development, awareness of surroundings, environmental conservation issues, independent mobility, and physical exercise and health.
  • Conducted training on safe bicycling and walking:
    • Eight-hour Community Workshop regarding bicycle safety procedures and rules of the road appropriate for elementary school.
    • Adult Cycling Road I Courses are geared toward adult cyclists and combine classroom activities and discussion with on-road practice in the basics of bicycling.
    • Driver's Ed for Bicyclists prepares Driver's Education instructors to teach bicycle and pedestrian law

Effects

  • A study at elementary schools in Duval County, Florida, which participated in the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program from 1996-98, showed:
  • Helmet use increased from 19 percent in 1992 to 47 percent in 1997.
  • Fatal crashes involving bicycles decreased 80 percent and bicycle-related injuries decreased 68 percent between 1996 and 1997.
  • Helmet use increased 25 percent from 1997 to 1998 for children under age 13.
  • The program operates in more than 55 percent of the school districts in Florida.
  • A state children's bicycle helmet law was enacted in 1997.

Challenges

  • No budget for promotion—information gets out mainly through word-of-mouth and newspaper coverage.
  • No statewide curriculum requirements for Traffic Safety Education. Competing for time to incorporate SR2S training, activities, and curriculum into classroom lesson plans.
  • Teachers leave the field, creating turnover; the need to train new teachers is ongoing.
  • Maintenance and security of equipment trailers requires continuous attention.
  • The large numbers of students per class.
  • Numbers of parents who drive their children to school: parent concern about safety, stranger danger, or their work schedules.
  • Daylight savings time extended into October, which means children walk to school or pick-up school bus in the dark.

Funding

  • Started in 1982 with $108,528 from the United States Department of Transportation Section 402 through the Florida Department of Transportation.
  • $161,000 annually from Florida Department of Transportation regular training budget on a three-year renewable contract with the University of Florida.
  • In-kind support from nonprofit Bike Florida, which supplements training equipment and assistance, has warehouse space for curriculum storage, and provides mini-grants to school districts.
  • Federal 402 funds provided annually to school districts to purchase bikes, trailers, and other equipment. Funding amount fluctuates from $500,000 to $1 million per year.

Lessons Learned

The Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program has benefited from longevity, continuing to grow since it began in 1982. The program has regularly used Section 402 funding to teach pedestrian and bicycle safety to hundreds of thousands of children across the state. Much of the program's success is attributed to the growth and evolution of the program, a resistance to stagnancy, and the on-going training of new teachers. After ten years of effort, enough support had been gathered to establish a statewide program. In 2002, the state legislature passed the “Safe Paths” bill as a directive to Florida Department of Transportation to create an annual funding source to support additional pedestrian and bicycle safety education projects.

Contact

Linda Crider, Director
Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program,
University of Florida, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
P.O. Box 115706
Gainesville, FL 32611
Tel: (352) 392-8192
Fax: (352) 846-0404
E-mail: safetyed@ufl.edu
Web site: www.dcp.ufl.edu/centers/trafficsafetyed/

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Much of the program's success is attributed to the growth and evolution of the program, a resistance to stagnancy, and the on-going training of new teachers.

 
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