Safe Routes to School
Today, more than ever, there is a need to provide options that allow children to walk and bicycle to school safely. Many communities struggle with traffic congestion around schools and motor vehicle emissions polluting the environment. At the same time, children in general engage in less physical activity, which contributes to the growing epidemic of obesity. At first glance, these problems may seem to be separate issues, but Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs can address all these challenges through a coordinated action plan.
SRTS programs use a variety of education, engineering and enforcement strategies that help make routes safer for children to walk and bicycle to school and encouragement strategies to entice more children to walk and bicycle. They have grown popular in recent years in response to problems created by an expanding built environment, a growing reliance on motor vehicles for student transportation and with the more recent development of federal and state funding of SRTS programs.
In 2007, the Georgia Department of Transportation launched a new program entitled Safe Routes to School (SRTS). The initiative is aimed at making bicycling and walking to school safe and routine through providing funds and services for infrastructure improvements, and education, encouragement and enforcement activities. Federal funds are made available to help create an environment where school children in Kindergarten through 8th grade can travel to school safely while walking and biking.
Americans are realizing that traffic congestion, fuel consumption and air pollution near our schools, coupled with growing health and obesity concerns, make walking and biking to school a low-cost, attractive alternative.
Safe Routes to School programs present a unique opportunity for a variety of individuals to partner and work towards a common goal. Through the SRTS program, community figures are encouraged to work together to create safe ways for children to walk and bike to school.
A pilot SRTS program has been established at Chapel Hill Elementary School for the 2008 Call for Infrastructure Projects by the Georgia Department of Transportation. Several other schools will be considered for future calls for projects based on school area ranking within the Douglas County School Related Transportation Needs Assessment and school communities that are prepared to be proactive in evaluation, education, encouragement, and enforcement activities that support SRTS initiatives. It is our hope that all schools, communities, and families in the Douglas County School District will eventually benefit from Safe Routes to School programs.
Identifying Issues & Solutions
Each school starts from a unique situation and with different circumstances. Some schools have great places for walking and bicycling but few students are taking advantage of it. Other communities have children walking and bicycling to school in unsafe conditions or along poorly maintained routes, while some communities do not have children walking or bicycling to school at all. Successful SRTS programs involve the whole community. Parents, children, neighborhood groups, schools, law enforcement officers, community leaders and transportation and public health professionals help identify the issues and solutions.
The implications of SRTS can be far-reaching. SRTS programs can improve safety, not just for children, but for a community of pedestrians and bicyclists. They provide opportunities for people to become more physically active and to rely less on their motor vehicles. SRTS programs benefit the environment and a community’s quality of life by reducing traffic congestion and motor vehicle emissions.
Georgia’s Safe Routes to School Program
- Develop comprehensive SRTS programs that incorporate:
- Enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school safely
- Facilitate the planning, development, and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity (approximately 2 miles) of primary and middle schools (grades Kindergarten through 8th Grade)
- Make bicycling and walking to school a safer and more appealing transportation alternative, thereby encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age
Non-Infrastructure & Infrastructure Components
Georgia’s Safe Routes to School Program is divided into two components: non-infrastructure and infrastructure. Non-infrastructure activities will be carried out through the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Resource Center, and infrastructure projects will be selected through a competitive application process.
Chapel Hill Elementary School Safe Routes to School Coalition
- Rodney Arrington, Transportation Director, Douglas County School System
- Jane Beasley, Plantation at Dorsett Shoals Home Owners Association Representative
- Randy Hulsey, Director, Douglas County Department of Transportation
- Michelle Jarvis, Chapel Hill Elementary School Parent Teacher Association
- Yvonne Kidney, Principal, Chapel Hill Elementary School
- Keary Lord, Assistant Director, Douglas County Department of Transportation
- Maria McTiernan, Chapel Hill Elementary School Parent Teacher Association
- Terri Miller, Safe Kids Douglas Coordinator
- Kirk Nicholson, Capital Improvements Coordinator, Douglas County School System
- Don Remillard, Superintendent, Douglas County School System
- Francine Salters, Knollview at Coursey Lakes resident
- Karen Stroud, Community Relations Director, Douglas County School System
- Traci Sullivan, Information Officer, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
- Amanda Walpole, District Director of Injury Prevention, Cobb & Douglas Public Health