Supporting Safe Routes To School -
Where Do We Go From Here?
As a local, regional, or statewide decision-maker, you may be approached in many different ways by people who are interested in the Safe Routes To School (SR2S) concept. How can you help them? Following are questions you might be asked, along with suggested responses. These are only suggestions – which you may expand and adapt to fit your own situation.
Q: Safe Routes To School - What does it mean and do we need to be involved?
A: This is the straightforward information your questioner needs: Since the 1950s fewer children have been walking or bicycling to school. Many people believe that this is a negative change. SR2S projects started in Denmark during the 1970s, and spread throughout the developed world. The common goal of all SR2S efforts is to increase the numbers of children who walk and bike safely to school, because:
The Preface explains why walking and bicycling are desirable activities, and lists the national goals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Transportation. Chapter One: Safe Routes To School – Why? expands on why the SR2S movement started, and the benefits.
The Preface explains why walking and bicycling are desirable activities, and lists the national goals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Transportation. Chapter 1: Safe Routes To School - Why? expands on why the Safe Routes To School movement started, and the benefits.
Q: Is it really a good idea to encourage children to walk or bicycle to school? Wouldn't they be safer in a car or on a school bus?
A: Reply that statistics show that children are generally safe from traffic injury inside a school bus. However, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for school-age children. And, whether in a car or bus, they do not get the physical activity benefits of walking or bicycling. Nor do they learn to feel independent and move confidently about their communities.
On the other hand, studies show that children who walk and bicycle are alert and ready to learn when they get to school, and more easily achieve Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's healthy goal of one hour of physical activity each day, a habit they would do well to keep. Those who continue to be active throughout their lives are at lower risk of various chronic illnesses.22
Communities benefit when more people walk and bicycle, because there
is less traffic and cleaner air.
Q: We have to make a presentation to our school board about Safe Routes To School. Do you have information or resources we can use?
A: For a description of SR2S that relate to education, encouragement, engineering and enforcement, see Chapter Two: Safe Routes To School (SR2S) – What Does That Mean?
A: For case studies of many different communities that have started programs to make their children's routes to school safer, how they did it and their results, see Chapter Four: Promising Practices – From Whom Can We Learn?
A: For contact information on a variety of SR2S efforts, see Appendix A: Safe Routes To School Projects and Related Efforts.
A: For additional SR2S resource information, see Appendix B: Resources, Publications, and Organizations
Q: Safe Routes To School sounds great! How do we get started?
A: Encourage your activists to gather information about their community. They will have to be able to document the need for SR2S projects and to evaluate their efforts.
Appendix D: Steps to Start an SR2S Project covers what is essential for starting an SR2S project. Useful toolkits have been developed by a variety of SR2S projects; they are listed on page 107.
Q: We have heard about the Four Es – but don't know which one we should concentrate on. Is it better to educate people about SR2S, or to encourage changes? Or should we build (engineer) safe routes to school, or work on enforcement?
A: Ask the community group what problems they have identified. What specific barriers keep their children from walking or bicycling safely to school?
Once the barriers are identified (see Appendix D: Steps to Start a SR2S Project , page 107), they can decide – perhaps with your help – how to overcome them. For example, for streets without sidewalks, an engineering solution is desirable. If the infrastructure is in place, but people just are not in the habit of walking, then encouragement will help. If people are unaware of the benefits of walking, education is a good approach. If motorists are not obeying the laws and yielding to children in the crosswalks, or are speeding in school zones, then address the problem with enforcement.
Chapter Two: Safe Routes To School (SR2S) – What Does That Mean? offers examples of how five different SR2S projects utilized one of the Four Es, as a part of their overall effort.
Desirable as it is to start with one or two activities, eventually it will probably be necessary to engage most or all of the Four Es. For the majority of children in most communities, the shift to walking and bicycling safely to school is a big change.
Q: We have heard that your department has some money available for SR2S projects. What do we have to do to get funding for our project?
A: If your department has money available for SR2S, you will need clear guidelines for choosing which projects to fund. First, consider how far you want to spread the money: over neighborhoods, towns, counties or regions? Do you want to fund geographical and/or demographic diversity? For example, large and small communities or ethnic mixes? Or simply the efforts most likely to be effective in raising numbers?
Consider evaluating projects, or project proposals, based on Table 1 on page 14. Be sure that each project has a way to measure change and plans to measure changes in at least some of the areas described.
Q: We know that your department doesn't have any money for SR2S projects, but do you know where we could get some funding?
A: SR2S projects have been funded by initiatives at the state, local or national level, and by private foundations. In Chapter Four: Promising Practices – From Whom Can We Learn?, each case study project's funding sources are described. The following sources of federal money have been used for Safe Routes To School efforts:
See Appendix E: National Transportation Law and Funding for more information on funding available under the federal Transportation Equity Act (TEA-21).
Q: We have done a lot of education of parents and children, and they are walking and driving much more carefully. But it still isn't safe or pleasant to walk in our area. What should we do next?
A: First, review with your community group whether they accurately assessed the barriers to safe and pleasant walking. Perhaps they thought they needed to educate walkers and cyclists, when the bigger problem was unsafe speeds by motorists. In that case, they need to work for better enforcement.
However, there are times when the policies of a school district, city, state or region work against safe routes to school. For example, the state may have a policy that requires a new school to be built if it is expensive to renovate an older one. Or the state might require a very large campus area for a school. These policies work against keeping schools in older, more densely built, walkable neighborhoods. By sharing the information in this resource guide, you may be able to help the group advocate for changes to such a policy.
Appendix A: Safe Routes To School (SR2S) Projects and Related Efforts (pages 64 and 75) discusses policy activities carried out by activists in Oakland, California, and in Texas.
Appendix A (pages 65-66) discusses descriptions of the projects that resulted from a legislative change in California that allocated a portion of construction money to Safe Routes To School projects.