Safe Routes to School (SRTS)
Everyone benefits when students get in step with SRTS.
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs help students get physically active while taking cars off the road. Over the past four decades, the percentage of students who walk and bicycle to school has declined from 48 percent (1969) to 13 percent (2009). During this time, the percentage of parents using Kiss and Ride has increased, exacerbating traffic conditions around many schools and making it more difficult for student walkers and bicyclists to get to school.
SRTS was established to improve the health and well-being of children by enabling and encouraging them to walk and bike to school. SRTS helps kids be healthy by increasing physical activity and helps our community by reducing traffic congestion and air pollution.
Originally started as a federally funded program, SRTS is now an active movement in schools in every state. In Virginia, the grant program is administered by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
FCPS' goal is to increase the number of schools participating and the number of students who take part in safe walking and biking activities. Right now, about 30 percent of our elementary and middle schools regularly participate in SRTS programs. Safe Routes to School can:
- Educate students on pedestrian and bicycle safety.
- Help students reach the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity.
- Help students arrive at school energized and ready to learn.
- Reduce traffic around schools.
- Improve air quality around schools.
Why Bring Safe Routes to School to Your School?
Over the past 20 years, the number of overweight children in the U.S. has doubled. Overweight children are at a significant risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and becoming overweight adults. Getting kids to walk and bike to school is a significant step toward solving the obesity crisis.
- Each extra hour a day spent riding in a car increases obesity risk by 6 percent.
- Walking one mile to and from school each day generates two-thirds of the recommended level of physical activity per day.
- Children who walk to school are more physically active throughout the day.
Air Quality and Greenhouse Gases
Air pollution produced by traffic is linked to children’s health issues like asthma, chronic respiratory illnesses, and certain cancers. Asthma accounts for 14 million missed days of school per year. The transportation sector produces nearly one-third of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. When schools are built in neighborhoods safe for walking and bicycling, air quality improves and kids benefit.
- Schools designed so children can walk and bicycle to school have measurably better air quality.
- A 5 percent increase in a neighborhood’s walkability reduces vehicle miles traveled by 6 percent.
- A return to 1969 levels of walking and bicycling to school would save 3.2 billion vehicle miles, 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide, and 89,000 tons of other pollutants, equivalent to keeping 250,000 cars off the road for a year.
We all want to keep our kids safe. Half of the children struck by cars near schools are hit by parents driving other children to school. Safe Routes to School is a comprehensive approach that includes education, encouragement, enforcement, and engineering to help keep kids safe.
- Studies of existing SRTS programs show approximately a 50 percent decrease in accidents involving child cyclists and pedestrians.
- As the number of people walking and bicycling increases, deaths and injuries actually decline.
Community Success Story
If you are ready to plan your first event, check out these resources and then contact our Safe Routes to School coordinator, at SafeRoutestoSchool@fcps.edu. Be sure to read the community success stories below to see how FCPS parents, students, and teachers are participating in Safe Routes to School.
VDOT has some excellent resources for parents and schools who want to organize a walk or bike to school day. See how to get started and gather ideas for your event.
Checklist for First Time Event
- Choose a date.
- Register your event.
- Form a team including parents, administrators, teachers, and students.
- Decide on the type of event.
- Emphasize safety.
- Publicize the event.
- Celebrate! Greet students as they arrive to school, offer incentives, or provide breakfast.
- Record your success. Take photos of the event; note the reduction of traffic around the school.
Keep the Momentum Going
Some schools use the one-day event as a kickoff to help encourage walking and biking to school on a regular basis. Schools have had success with once a month walks or weekly walks. Establishing walking school buses, bike trains, pollution solution punch cards, and go green clubs can help your school encourage regular walking and biking to school. Use the links below for ideas on how you can establish a culture of active transportation to school.
November 2017 SRTS Newsletter
Each month, Safe Routes to School will highlight one or more of our FCPD Crossing Guards in our Crossing Guard Corner. Get the details in our SRTS Newsletter.