What Is Safe Routes To School
In recent decades, the number of students walking or biking to school has sharply declined. During the same period, an alarming upward trend of childhood obesity and physical inactivity has occurred. Students being driven to school generates substantial traffic congestion and contributes to air pollution that affects the health of everyone in our communities.
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs are part of the solution to reversing these trends. SRTS programs aim at increasing the number of students who choose active (walking, bicycling, scooter, skateboarding) or shared (public transit, carpooling) mode of transportation to school by making it safer and more accessible to walk, bicycle and/or take transit.
The “Six E’s Plus" Approach
SRTS programs support the goal of creating a safer environment for students to walk, bicycle or take public transit to school -- but SRTS is not one-size-fits-all. What works at one school may not work at another, and SRTS relies on a menu of activities and programming that can be customized by local champions to best fit the need of schools and local community. Most SRTS efforts can be organized into the following elements, commonly referred to as the “Six E’s.” A comprehensive SRTS program will include all Six E’s in order to complement and reinforce the goals of safe, healthy and active transportation to and from school.
Encouragement – Events, activities and contests that spark interest in both students and parents in walking and biking to school, reward participation, promote the personal and community benefits of SRTS, and make walking or biking to school fun.
Education – Classes and activities that teach students, parents and community members safe walking and bicycling skills including safe driving behavior. In addition, programs for parents and school staff to learn about safety tips and how to develop and sustain a SRTS program.
Engineering – Infrastructure improvements (signage, crosswalks, traffic signals, etc) designed to improve the safety of people walking, bicycling, and driving along school routes.
Enforcement – Strategies to deter the unsafe behavior of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, and educate all users on obeying traffic laws and following appropriate drop-off and pick-up procedures.
Evaluation – Tracking progress through regular counts, surveys, and other data collection to determine impact on student travel behavior as well as effectiveness of specific program elements.
Equity – Should be integrated into all aspects of SRTS. Acknowledgement of the different challenges and barriers that students face is important to ensure that Safe Routes to School initiatives are benefiting all demographic groups. Equity, as it relates to SRTS, is about ensuring all students have safe access to and from school.
Plus – Partnership plays a key role in SRTS efforts, as the programs are typically led and sustained through extensive cooperation among SRTS champions and key stakeholders, such as parents, schools and school districts, law enforcement, public health organizations, local government agencies, non-profit groups and community members. When developing and/or sustaining your SRTS programs, look for opportunities to collaborate with other ongoing efforts that share similar objectives. Such efforts may include school wellness programs, traffic fatality reduction policies, gang violence reduction, and youth development activities.
Metro is partnering with local schools to promote bicycle education and safety by hosting FREE Safe Routes to School (SRTS) events such as bike rides, classes, and rodeos. These activities are intended to help students, parents, and teachers/staff incorporate safe bicycling into their daily travel routines. The goal is to encourage more students and teachers/staff to walk, bike, and/or take public transit to travel to and from school.
Metro aims to make the SRTS efforts flexible to accommodate a wide range of needs that schools may have. The bike rides, classes, and rodeos are free, fun, interactive, and may take place at schools throughout Los Angeles County.
Bike 101 – Off-Bike Instruction 1 hour
Targeted Grades: All
Learn the rules of the road and safe routes to school. Topics covered: what’s needed to bike; route planning; bike quick checks; and rules of the road.
Bike Rodeos Up to 2 hours
Targeted Grades: 4th, 5th
Rodeos allow students to practice bike handling skills in a safe, fun and enclosed obstacle course. A great option for Back to School or Open House events. Topics covered: bike quick checks; helmet fit; mount/dismount; start/stop; signaling and scanning.
Bike Rides Up to 2 hours
Targeted Grades: 6th-12th
Short bike rides take students to different locations in the neighborhood around their school, giving them a chance to apply practical bike riding skills on neighborhood streets. Topics covered: route planning; bike quick checks; and rules of the road.
Train-the-Trainer Class – Off-Bike Instruction 1 hour
Learn about safe walking and biking skills, as well as how to carry out Safe Routes to School (SRTS) activities, such as a walking school bus and a bike rodeo. Topics covered: bike quick checks; rules of the road; and coordinating events.
Bike Rides Up to 3 hours
Participate in a beginner community ride. Visit school(s) of interest, designate routes that may safely accommodate bicyclists, and highlight areas where there may be challenges. These rides are intended to help parents and staff plan routes and inform future SRTS activities.
Interested in learning more, or hosting a bike class, ride or rodeo? Contact us!
Already decided you want to participate?
School coordinators may fill out a request form to host an SRTS event at your school. Requests must be submitted to Metro at least 6-8 weeks before the desired event day.
For more information on bicycle safety classes and to stay updated on upcoming events and community rides, please visit metro.net/gobike.
Metro developed the Metro Countywide Safe Routes to School Resource Manual to provide guidance to aid schools in building and sustaining a successful SRTS program. It provides resources and program suggestions for school administrators, teachers, parents, community members, and other champions of SRTS projects and programs throughout LA County. The Manual includes fact sheets on the benefits of SRTS to help inspire action, a catalog of suggested programs and activities with step-by-step instructions, as well as sample materials and templates that SRTS champions can download, copy, and distribute.
Remember that SRTS is fully customizable – everything in this Resource Manual can be tailored to fit your school’s unique needs, students and schedule.
Many of the SRTS activities can be carried out by parent volunteers, student volunteers, and school staff with minimal investment. However, funding for larger project or program efforts may be necessary. Successful implementation of district-wide programs, engineering/infrastructure improvement and enforcement strategies may require more significant investment.
SRTS programs and activities are eligible for federal, state, regional and local funding. Please consider partnering with local agencies and community based organizations when applying for funding.
Sources for SRTS Funding consideration include:
- Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST ACT): The FAST ACT leaves each state Department of Transportation with discretion about whether to fund Safe Routes to School projects, and how much funding to dedicate to these initiatives. (Only infrastructure projects are eligible.)
- Highway Safety Improvement Program: Provides funding for bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, as well as education and encouragement programs. (Both infrastructure and non-infrastructure are eligible.)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Grants and contracts are available for programs and projects that support the mission of promoting health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability. (Only non-infrastructure projects are eligible.)
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Grants are available for environmental education projects that enhance the public's awareness, knowledge and skills to help people make informed decisions that affect environmntal quality. (Non- Infrastructure Only)
- Active Transportation Program (ATP): The ATP consolidates existing federal and state transportation programs, including State Safe Routes to School (SR2S), into a single program with a focus to make California a national leader in active transportation. (Infrastructure and Non-Infrastructure)
- Caltrans Sustainable Communities Grants: Funds local and regional multimodal transportation and land use planning projects that further the region’s RTP/SCS , contribute to the State’s GHG reduction targets, and also assist in achieving the Caltrans Mission and Grant Program Overarching Objectives. (Non-Infrastructure Only)
- SCAG’s Sustainable Communities Program: Funds projects that are intended to: Provide needed planning resources to local jurisdictions for sustainability planning efforts; develop local plans that support the implementation of the 2016 RTP/SCS; and Increase the region’s competitiveness for federal and state funds, including but not limited to the California Active Transportation Program and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds. (Non-Infrastructure Only)
- Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) Grants: The Office of Traffic Safety distributes grants statewide to establish new traffic safety programs or fund ongoing safety programs. OTS grants may only be applied to non-infrastructure projects, such as Walk Safe, Bike Safe Train the Trainer Programs. (Non-Infrastructure Only)