Frequently Asked Questions:
- Q. What is Safe Routes to School (SRTS)?
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a federal, state and local effort to enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school - and to make walking and bicycling to school safe and appealing.
- Q. How do SRTS programs work?
Each participating school forms a local team consisting of school administrators, municipal officials, teachers, parents, student leaders, law enforcement officers and other interested community members. They work together to assess attitudes and behaviors of parents and students, analyze the physical environment leading to the school and research related policies. The teams then make recommendations and create an action plan.
- Q. Who is in charge?
Each school manages its own SRTS program. The school principal or other school administrator generally has the final word on program policy and implementation. However, a team member may be designated to lead the program and set goals and timelines.
- Q. Who can apply?
Eligible groups included but are not limited to:
Schools both public and private, school districts, cities, counties, state agencies, Tribes, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, public and non-profit entities working on behalf of a school(s) or school district.
- Q. What is the rationale behind SRTS?
According to a study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration, most of today's parents walked or biked to elementary school when they were young. They explored their neighborhoods regularly on bike or on foot that offered them independence and resulted in self-assurance.
By contrast. children today are driven to nearly all of their activities and only 10 percent walk to school every day. There are several reasons for this sharp decline. The journey between home and school has become longer and more treacherous because of decades of auto-oriented sub urbanization. This pattern has been compounded by the trend towards building new schools at a distance from residential areas.
In addition, parents fear exposing their children to threats from strangers and motor vehicles. And finally, in many communities, sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, and trails are either missing or inadequate.
The travel choices we now make have affected the physical activity level of our children. With obesity trends on the rise among our youth, SRTS is a way to encourage and promote walking and bicycling as an active mode of transportation.
- Q. What are the benefits of a SRTS program?
A successful Safe Routes to School program benefits children in several ways. When routes are safe, walking or biking to and from school is an easy way to get the regular physical activity children need for good health. Studies have shown that physically active kids have improved mood and concentration, a stronger self-image and more self-confidence. Physically active kids also have fewer chronic health problems and report lower levels of smoking and alcohol consumption.
It's also fun! Research shows that walking or riding is children's preferred method of getting to school. There's so much to see, smell, touch, think, and talk about. By walking with friends, children will build relationships and learn more about their neighborhood, their friends, and themselves.
Safe Routes to School initiatives help the environment by easing traffic jams and curbing air pollution. Research has shown that 25 percent of morning traffic is parents driving their students to school. Fewer car trips also mean lower gasoline bills, a significant factor with today's higher prices.
- Q. Do SRTS programs actually work?
Yes! The Marin County, California, Safe Routes to School program (the first of its kind in the U.S.) reported a 64 percent increase in the number of students walking to school, a 114 percent increase in the number of children bicycling and a 39 percent decrease in the number of children arriving singly by private car.
- Q. Isn't walking and biking to school dangerous?
Walking and biking to school can be dangerous. One of the goals of a Safe Routes to School program is to identify potential hazards on the school grounds and adjacent neighborhoods and develop plans to address them. Even when routes to and from school are ostensibly safe, risks remain.
However, the current reliance on automobiles to transport children represents a different kind of risk: the long-term risks from a sedentary lifestyle. The portion of children who are overweight or obese has tripled in the last 25 years. Health experts are predicting that rates of diseases associated with physical inactivity, such as diabetes, will soar as the next generation comes of age.
- Q. What are "walking school buses" and "bicycle trains"?
A walking school bus and bicycle train both consist of groups of students accompanied by adults that walk or bicycle a pre-planned route to school. Routes can originate from a particular neighborhood or, in order to include children who live too far to walk or bicycle, begin from a parking lot. They may operate daily, weekly or monthly. Often, they are started in order to address parents' concerns about traffic and personal safety while providing a chance for parents and children to socialize.
Walking school busses and bicycle trains can be loosely structured or highly organized. For example, walking buses or bicycle trains can be as simple as neighborhood families deciding to walk or bicycle together. More formal, organized walking school buses and bicycle trains have a coordinator who recruits volunteers and participants, creates a schedule and designs a walking route. While requiring more effort, more structured walking school buses and bicycle trains offer the opportunity to involve more children.
- Q. What is "traffic calming"?
The Institute of Transportation Engineers defines traffic calming as "changes in street alignment, installation of barriers, and other physical measures to reduce traffic speeds and/or cut-through volumes in the interest of street safety, livability and other public purposes."
Traffic calming measures can include: narrowing the street by reducing the number of lanes; building speed bumps or humps; adding traffic circles or roundabouts; adding raised pedestrian crosswalks; converting two-way streets to one-way streets; adding of curb extensions or "bulb-outs."
- Q. What is a "walking audit"?
A walking audit (also known as a walking tour, walk about or environmental assessment) is a report done by parents, school administrators and other community members who tour the school property and adjacent neighborhoods to look for routes students can safely use to get to school.
The tours reveal what students experience during their walk to school and give school teams first hand evidence of existing safety problems. The audits are generally done during school arrival and dismissal times.
The audits typically focus on the walking and biking routes currently used to travel to school, the walking and biking routes that could be used to travel to school and the school property itself, especially pick-up and drop-off sites used by buses and parents.
- Q. What is Walk to School Day?
Walk to School Day, like SRTS, is a school-based initiative to encourage physical activity among children. However, it is a one-day event and not a continuing program like SRTS.
Walk to School Day is usually held the first week in October. It is a way for parents, students, school personnel and other community members to directly experience the trip to school on foot as they walk and bike with students on the day of the event. It often generates discussions on the importance of physical activity, awareness of the fun of walking and biking, and early identification of safety concerns.
Walk to School Day for 2008 will be held Wednesday October 8th.
- Q. What are the 5 Es?
The 5 Es - engineering, enforcement, education, encouragement and evaluation - are SRTS strategies of a comprehensive SRTS Program.
- Q. Where can I find information about designing pedestrian or bicycle facilities?
See the Resources Page