Raleigh is Looking for New Options for Safe Routes to School

SRTS National Center is located in Chapel Hill, but has programming in thousands of communities across the US.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010, the Raleigh City Council voted 8-0 in favor of supporting the Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Commission’s recommendation that the City apply to join the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in 1969, about half of all students walked or bicycled to school, compared to the fewer than 15 percent of all school trips made by walking or bicycling now. Currently, only one-quarter of trips are on a school bus and over half of all children arrive at school in private automobiles. With childhood obesity and related diseases on the rise, this is a great opportunity for our schools,  children, and parents to consider something besides being dropped off in the soccer-mom-mobile!

As reported on their website, Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs enable community leaders, schools and parents across the United States to improve safety and encourage more children, including children with disabilities, to safely walk and bicycle to school. These programs work to reduce traffic congestion and improve health and the environment, making communities more livable for everyone. Additionally, the National Center for SRTS is right here in the Triangle, housed and maintained in part by the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, and the Federal Highway Administration.

NC SRTS Funding received surpasses $15M.

In August 2005, the U.S. Congress provided funding to create a Federal SRTS Program, and designated $612 million in Federal transportation funds, distributed through each State’s Department of Transportation (DOT), a nationwide effort became a reality. The current Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, is even a participant in the SRTS program and on this past Grandparent’s Day, instead of just eating lunch with his granddaughter, he joined her on her walk to school.  The Federal program is now helping thousands of programs grow in communities around the US  today. Other communities in North Carolina have partnered with SRTS and you can read more about NC case studies online.

SRTS uses case studies, experience, and a network of hundreds of advocacy organizations, government agencies and professional groups working together to establish best practices and provide educational materials as well as sound and consistent policy. Proven tactics and trained facilitators enable the programming a means to successfully engage parents, students, teachers, school administrators, elected officials, transportation professionals, law enforcement, health organizations, and other community partners – “this is no fly by the seat of your pants” kinda programming. Public policy goals include:

  • Decreasing traffic congestion
  • Improving health and reducing childhood obesity
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Improving air quality
  • Increasing community safety and access

Instead of cars in the parking lot, bikes fill the courtyard on Bike to School Day in May. Students received "Rules of the Road" cards for cyclists and motorists and reflectors to help them stay safe, provided by GoTriangle.

Granted, the idea of biking or walking to school isn’t some new idea, but it’s not impossible either. Safe Routes to School can assist with everything from program development, to infrastructure improvements, to marketing materials – and it’s not just for the tots either! Think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks or get a teenager to give up their new set of wheels? Just this spring Broughton High School students organized a Bike to School Day and more than 200 students participated.

So get excited, and be on the lookout for more information about SRTS. Oh – and please feel free to share info about SRTS in other Triangle municipalities (or wherever you moved from if you’re a transplant like me) in comments!

Special thanks go to www.saferoutesinfo.org and Steven Waters, Chair of Raleigh BPAC, for information for this blog.

3 thoughts on “Raleigh is Looking for New Options for Safe Routes to School

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Raleigh is Looking for New Options for Safe Routes to School « GoTriangle -- Topsy.com

  2. While these steps are good it is also important to note that things have changed a lot over the years as far as keeping children safe from predators. We still don’t feel completely comfortable allowing our children to ride their bikes by themselves around the neighborhood and we live in a well-off area.

    • Clay, you have a good point. This is why the SRTS programs work with the community, school administration and law enforcement in their planning process. For younger children they include items such as the “walking school bus” where a parent, grandparent, or even a school employee walks with a group of students. Adult crossing guards are also used to provide safe passage and an extra pair of eyes on the students. Other options they are implementing include “safe houses” – houses that have some sign identifying them to students as a safe place if a child has a problem or feels unsafe. Schools provide a map of the houses to parents, and encourage routes that pass by those houses rather than some other directions. These houses have SRTS supporters like those already mentioned who will call the school and/or police when a student comes to them.

      Again, they have a lot of experience and try to plan for the best and prevent the worst. More information about the programs and how they address issues can be found online on the SRTS site or in the SRTS guide which is also on their website.

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