Starting a Safe Routes To School (SR2S) project is not as difficult as you might think. It will take time and effort, but it can be done. Through our research and review of SR2S projects and materials, we have identified steps that are essential to developing an SR2S project. Not all projects require gathering all the information listed under each step, nor must you follow the order listed here.
Step 1: Understand the Community Situation and Identify the Problem(s)
- Collect and review data on issues such as: number or percentage of children walking to school, child pedestrian- and bicycle-related injuries and fatalities, number of overweight children, level of children's physical fitness, traffic congestion, crime rates, and air pollution.
- Collect school data including: school population by grade; number of families in your school community; number of out-of-area children and families at your neighborhood school; number of students who participate in after-school programs and location of these programs; and physical education class schedules and attendance rates.
Step 2: Identify and Contact Potential Partners and Stakeholders
- Write a letter explaining the project to potential volunteers, partners,
and organizations including law enforcement, school personnel, parents, and neighbors.
- Explain the specific problems the SR2S project will address, and ask for support as you research your neighborhood for safety (walkability and/or bikeability checklist).
Step 3: Research and Assess the Situation
- Demonstrate the interest and need for a SR2S project by conducting student and parent surveys to gather baseline information about walking and bicycling to school, and barriers and risks.
- Compile a database of potential parent volunteers and a list of families that are already using active transportation to and from school.
- Map your school catchment area and neighborhood to identify: location of neighborhood school; streets and entrances to school grounds; routes children walk and bicycle to school; locations where cars and school buses drop off or pick up children; bike paths, best routes, crosswalks; and safety hazards and safety concerns.
Step 4: Walk to Assess Safety and Walkability, and Consult
with Traffic Safety Experts
- Walk the neighborhoods and document conditions to identify areas
where cars conflict with schoolchildren's safety, and isolated areas
where children could be at risk.
- Consult with transportation or traffic experts to develop ideas
for improving or changing traffic patterns.
Step 5: Schedule Planning Meeting with All Concerned
- Invite faculty, staff, parents, and children to a meeting at which you make a short presentation about the SR2S project.
- Suggest goals and objectives, and present survey and mapping results.
Step 6: Design Your Project and Develop an Action Plan
- Decide on the type of activities the project is likely to undertake,
such as: changes to improve safety and convenience, traffic safety
awareness, code enforcement, and events that promote walking and bicycling.
- Assign tasks to volunteers, and agree on a reasonable completion
date for each task.
- Set priorities and deadlines for your action plan.
Step 7: Implement Your Action Plan
- Find a “champion” to serve as key organizer of the project, help lead the effort, and keep the project focused and on task.
- Give all team members an organizational chart of the tasks and person responsible for each task and due dates; include contact information for all participants.
- Involve the children as much as possible in the campaign to promote the project, especially for special events.
Step 8: Promote and Plan a Kickoff Event to Launch Your SR2S Project
- Send home a letter from the principal to promote the project; use the school newsletter; put up posters about the project around the school; ask teachers to talk about it in class; make public address announcements at the school; post flyers in local apartment buildings, libraries, and community centers.
- Hold the kickoff event in conjunction with a special occasion, such
as the annual International Walk To School Day or Earth Day.
- Invite the media, local law enforcement officers, politicians, celebrities,
and team or organization mascots to participate; have give-aways for
Step 9: Evaluate the SR2S Project
- Conduct an evaluation of the project to identify successes and problems, and to confirm that the project is meeting its goals and objectives.
- Generate support, and help others who are planning an SR2S project.
- Keep measuring your success; refine and conduct new surveys.
Step 10: Maintain Your SR2S Project
Useful SR2S Toolkits
- Reintroduce the project at the start of each school year with a kickoff event and send information home about the project. Also meet with the principal and teachers at the beginning of the year to plan classroom activities on traffic safety.
- Hold regular SR2S team meetings at a time when most people can attend.
- Inform your community of your successes at the meetings; and through newsletters and newspaper articles.
- Look for funding opportunities.
- Connect with other SR2S activists to share strategies and organize efforts for regional policy changes.
Much of the information
to help you through these 10 essential steps for starting a Safe Routes
To School project were gathered from the many SR2S toolkits available
that offer detailed step-by-step instructions, strategies, sample materials,
and resources. The toolkits that we found useful were:
- Safe Routes To School (Marin County, California, Bicycle Coalition)
- Safe Routes To School (WalkBoston)
- Kids-Walk-To-School, (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia)
- Safe Ways To School (Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education
Program, Federal Department of Transportation)
- Active and Safe Routes To School (Greenest Cities, Toronto, Canada)
- Way To Go! School Program Manual (The Road Sense Team, British Columbia)
School Program Manual (The Road Sense Team, British Columbia)
Please refer to Appendix B: Resource, Publications,
and Organizations for additional information on these toolkits and how you can obtain a copy. The toolkits can help you start an SR2S project and alter and adapt any of the steps described to better suit your school and community's situation.