Safe Routes to School :: Practice and Promise
Safe Routes To School -
What Does That Mean? (continued)

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Chapter Two








Education: Marin Safe Routes to School - Marin County, California

The Marin County Bicycle Coalition used its SR2S demonstration project in 2000 to develop an extensive and continuing educational program for local schools. The project promotes walking and biking to school through classroom education, contests, and events (i.e., Walk and Bike to School Days, Frequent Rider Miles contest, walking school buses, and bike trains), mapping, and community involvement.

The education component gives each participating school a toolkit, guidance, forms, newsletters, and other promotional materials. An SR2S instructor provides safety training for second- and fourth-graders and conducts a bicycle safety rodeo with assistance from law enforcement. Fact sheets for drivers build upon the safety message, letting drivers know of their responsibilities. The project also offers environmental education for sixth- and eighth-graders, exploring transportation choices and the effect of those choices on air and water pollution, and on greenhouse gas emissions.

After its first year, the Marin SR2S pilot project reported the following outcome at its 16 participating schools:

  • The schools experienced a 57 percent increase in the number of children walking and biking, and a 29 percent decrease in the number of children being driven alone in a car.

Active and Safe Routes to School "No Idling" Campaign-Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Active and Safe Routes To School (ASRTS) program in Toronto, Ontario, has targeted auto air pollution as a major part of its campaign since 1996. ASRTS pinpointed car engines idling at schools as a major source of pollution. ASRTS launched a “No Idling” campaign across this Canadian province in April 2001. “No Idling,” a social marketing effort, uses posters, stickers, printed educational materials, and volunteer parents, school staff, and students in dialogue at school. The materials are intended to dispel the myth that idling a car does not cause pollution, or that idling pollutes less than normal driving. In fact, ASRTS determined that an idling engine uses 3.5 liters of gasoline an hour, and 12 percent of urban smog is attributable to idling vehicles. “No Idling” kits were printed in English and French, and more than 1,000 have been distributed. ASRTS evaluated the effort via mail and phone questionnaire and determined that:

  • More than 75 percent of the schools surveyed noted fewer idling vehicles after implementing the “No Idling” project.
  • The estimated reduction of 247 hours per day of auto idling resulted in an estimated 210.5 fewer metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
  • Schools that requested the kit - rather than receiving it “cold” - were more likely to initiate activities. However, all schools had difficulty with specific pre- and post-campaign data collection.

Enforcement: Pedestrian Safety Enforcement (PSE) - Multiple Communities

It is a common complaint among walkers-to-school that automobile drivers seldom yield to pedestrians, even though many states have laws that require the driver to yield. Several communities have implemented targeted pedestrian safety enforcement (also known as “pedestrian sting”).

Pedestrian Safety Enforcement (PSE) was first tried in Redmond, Washington, in 1998. Currently, the Redmond Police Department received many complaints from pedestrians and police officers about drivers' failure to yield to pedestrians - their estimate of the extent of the problem was that 50 percent of drivers did not yield to pedestrians under situations where the pedestrian clearly had the right-of-way and the driver had sufficient time to stop. Currently, the Redmond Police Department chooses sites for its PSE operations based on complaints and on collision data. Seven or eight officers take part in each operation, which lasts approximately two hours. At an intersection, police officers determine the reasonable stopping distance for a vehicle approaching a crosswalk where a pedestrian is attempting to cross. A plainclothes officer attempts to cross, while “spotters” and motorcycle officers are assigned to document whether motorists yield; those who do not are issued citations. The operation has increased police officer awareness of the problem. The officers have written a large number of driver citations, which are intended to increase yielding by drivers at intersections.

A picture of an adult crossing on the street

PSE has been used in numerous cities, including Oakland, Santa Rosa, Santa Ana, and Montebello in California; Las Vegas and Carson City in Nevada; and various locations in Oregon and Maryland. During a one-year period in Oakland, police officers conducted 51 PSE operations, yielding 1,141 traffic citations and 15 arrests. Media coverage of the PSE operations has been good. This helps to spread the word to drivers outside the immediate area who see or hear reports on television or radio.

A picture of three children riding their bikes

Engineering: Traffic Calming Measures - Odense, Denmark

Walking and bicycling to school are much more common in Europe than in the United States. However, injuries are also common. From 1955 to 1971, Denmark had the highest rate of child mortality due to road crashes in Western Europe. The city of Odense (population 180,000 with 38,000 children under 18 years) began working with all of its 45 schools more than 20 years ago. For each school, city staff drew maps of the area, showing where the children traveled and what they considered dangerous. Proposals to improve the traffic environment were developed based on this information. Since 1981, approximately 200 projects have been implemented. Slow-speed areas, traffic islands, speed humps and separate foot and bicycle paths are all effective at calming traffic. Odense earmarks approximately $146,000* per year for safety improvements for children. As a result:

  • 41 percent of Odense children bicycle to school and 21 percent walk.
  • Twelve different roads that were studied showed decreases in speed from 28 to 19 miles per hour. On these roads, the total number of crashes has been reduced 82 percent, and the crashes are less serious.
  • Citywide, from 1994 to 1999, traffic crashes involving walking and bicycling children six to 17 years old dropped 16 percent during school hours.
  • Schools report that parents and students feel more secure. This perception of safety is considered as important a measure of success of the SR2S effort as statistics on traffic and injuries.

Putting It All Together

In a relatively short period of time, excellent work has been done to improve the experience of children walking and bicycling to school. While we know of no American community that has achieved all SR2S goals - at least 50 percent of children walking and biking to school, a significant proportion of all trips done by bike or on foot, and a pleasant, community-wide environment that encourages physical activity, community spirit, and children's well-being - significant steps have been taken to reach this ideal.

We celebrate each effort, community by community, as a step toward achieving national goals. There are many reasons to work on Safe Routes to School, many different approaches and many levels of effort. Chapter 4: Promising Practices of Safe Routes to School – From Whom Can We Learn? spotlights the promising practices of SR2S efforts that:

  • have enough longevity to measure changes;
  • have made an effort to evaluate their effectiveness; and
  • have achieved a stable funding level.

There are SR2S efforts in many parts of the world. They are all slightly different, and they all need and deserve support to turn their promise - of healthier children and communities - into reality.

(* All monetary amounts are given in U.S. dollars)


Children holding a picture



A "Walking School Bus" is a group of children, accompanied by one of more adults, who walk together to school, starting at one house and picking up students as they walk along. The same concept applies to biking to school via "Bike Trains".















A picture of a little girl walking



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