Safe Routes to School :: Practice and Promise
Promising Practices -
From Whom Can We Learn?
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Chapter Four
  The Bronx, New York  








More than 85 percent of children in the Bronx (population 1.3 million) walk to school. Unfortunately, in 1995-97, the Bronx had New York state's highest rate of pedestrian fatalities and injuries. Transportation Alternatives—an advocacy organization for pedestrians and bicyclists—launched the Bronx Safe Routes To School (SR2S) project in 1997 in an effort to maintain the high percentage of children walking to school but to make their travel safer. The collaborative process began with community leaders nominating a number of schools. From this list, project staff chose several schools at which to develop support among parents and decision-makers. They acquired funding and created environmental changes and traffic-calming measures that made walking routes safer. The project grew to 38 schools, with enrollments totaling 33,540 students. The 300,000 Bronx residents who use routes near the schools also have benefited by having safer streets.

crossing guard leads share the road walkers

Description of Efforts

  • Surveyed parents' and children's walking routes and mapped the hazards.
  • Used city and state crash data and Geographic Information System software. Intersections at which there were clusters of crashes involving child pedestrians were mapped and the findings presented in easy-to-read map format.
  • Developed detailed traffic-calming plans for New York City Department of Transportation to design and build.
  • Used competitive nominating process to create “buzz” about the program to ensure interest and participation by busy principals and Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs).
  • Built support for engineering and traffic-calming measures; used media and PTA outreach to raise awareness of child pedestrian safety issues and solutions.


  • Won citywide commitment and funds to improve pedestrian safety around schools.
  • Identified walking routes to school where traffic safety was a major concern and residents would welcome changes.
  • New York City Department of Transportation improved signage, restripped crosswalks, and put in numerous speed humps in the neighborhoods around elementary schools.
  • Improved public and political acceptance of effective but potentially controversial new traffic-calming engineering measures such as narrower roads, pedestrian refuge islands, leading pedestrian intervals, and neck downs.


  • High traffic volume at some intersections, with a general public resistance to slowing down the traffic.
  • Developing a process in which New York City Department of Transportation engineers felt welcomed and needed, rather than criticized and on the defensive.
  • Choosing a “champion” at a school. PTA may or may not be organized and involved enough to take on a program.
  • Shifting the interest of parents and school personnel over long periods of time from determining the safety problem to getting it fixed.


  • Transportation Alternatives received $84,000 a year (1997-2001) from the governor's Traffic Safety Committee, which drew on federal TEA-21 402 funds, under sponsorship of the Office of the Bronx Borough President.
  • New York City Department of Transportation launched a new School Safety Engineering Division in 2000 that began a $2.5 million project to improve safety around all 1,359 New York City elementary schools.

Lessons Learned

School-based traffic calming has reduced pedestrian deaths and injuries along school walking routes and improved the walking experience in cities across Europe. However, New York City agencies and elected officials only reluctantly embraced measures that they felt impinged on motorists. To win the traffic-calming design changes that would make Bronx school routes safer, the project had to demonstrate political viability and soundness as a traffic safety program. Staff encouraged parents, principals, police, the New York City Department of Transportation, and other local traffic engineering talent to participate in planning so that the new engineering measures would be appropriate and there would be broad support for funding the program. The competitive school nomination process won parents' and principals' attention and increased their sense of ownership and pride in the project.


Transportation Alternatives
Tel: (212) 629-8080
Web site:

Ellen Cavanaugh
Urbitran Associates
Tel: (510) 839-0810











To win the traffic calming design, changes that would make Bronx school routes safer, the project had to demonstrate political viability and soundness as a traffic safety program.

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