10 Tips for Building Safe Routes to School

Safe Routes to School is a national program that seeks to promote children’s mobility to get to and from school. It is essential for children’s health and safety, and improves student success and attendance. But because funding and accountability in the US is limited, it’s easy for programs to be overlooked or insufficient. Here are tips for Building or strengthening the program at your school here in Provo (and elsewhere)!

#1: Join your School Community Council: This council is tasked with submitting the annual Safe Routes plan each spring, as well as to allocate or apply for any funds. It is critical that you join this council as a parent or teacher to make headway in Safe Routes!

#2: Remember that a program differs from the annual plan: Each spring, the school community council is supposed to submit a Safe Routes plan, as well as an updated map, to the city. This plan can include any requests for your school’s infrastructure or enforcement (esp crossing guards and infrastructure).

The plan is important, but if it’s the only part of the school’s Safe Routes efforts, it will not be enough. The plan should be submitted in the context of the school’s ongoing, consistent Safe Routes Program. See next.

#3: A Safe Routes to School Program should include all 6 E’s: Education, Encouragement, Engineering, Enforcement, Evaluation, and Equity. In order to be successful, all pieces are needed! See example program outline here.

#4: Look up specific strategies for each of the 6 E’s to suggest during school community council meetings to create your program. The National Partnership for Safe Routes to School has an excellent guide with examples of strategies for each. Discuss these early in the year…

#5: …and include input from the school community, including students themselves! Be persistent in distributing surveys and maps to get as much feedback as possible. Families best know the uneven sidewalks, the tricky intersections, and the particular needs you may have overlooked! See example survey from Timpanogos Elementary.

#6: Publish findings to school community. What are the benefits and obstacles that are most important for your school? How can people come together to address needs? Simple graphics made on Canva can be very effective.

#7: Bring Bike Utah’s free bike safety class for your 4th graders! They’ll bring the bikes, the helmets, and the instruction. Work this into the Education Strategies for your Safe Routes Program each year if possible! See more here.

#8: Conduct walking/biking counts by asking volunteers from PTA, neighborhood residents, and even local universities/high schools: Counting the number and location of students walking/biking is an important part of the Evaluation strategies in your program. See more on how to measure your program.

#9: Get inspired by other programs doing things right! Las Cruces School District in New Mexico, or the program in Seattle.

#10: Like/follow key organizations that advocate for safer mobility for children:

Bonus: Sign up for Bike Week each September & keep the momentum going all year with a strong Safe Routes to School program!

Open Call for Urban Art! Help Design the 300 W Neighorhood Bikeway Tactical Urbanism Project

The Neighborhoods surrounding 300 W have a vision: turn 300 West between the Frontrunner & the Provo River Trail into a safe, connected bikeway!

Help with the first steps by submitting your art for our tactical urbanism project between 500 North and 300 North, which will be on display for about a month or two. We will also be giving away prizes from local bike shops to the selected artists. This project has 4 elements. View details below and then click the button to submit your art:

  • This contest is to design the artwork that will be painted directly on the street on 300 West to calm traffic and make the street safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. The art will be featured as a part of a temporary “tactical urbanism” project permitted by the city for several weeks.
  • Review the art locations below and download the artist template of your choice. Sketch and color your idea in the red outlined shapes. (You can also freehand it; the templates are just to help you visualize the area). Multiple submissions are permitted / encouraged. Have fun with it!
  • Take a scan or photo of your template and submit it using the form on this page.
  • All submissions are due by July 13th.
  • If your artwork is selected, BikeWalk Provo will supply all the paint and tools needed to bring it to life on the street. We’ll also bring volunteers. You will need to be available to participate / direct the project in late July.
  • If your artwork is selected, you will also receive a prize from a local bike shop.

#1: 500 North curb extensions.This element will involve 1 pair of curb extensions on the east and west sides of the intersection just south of the rec center. At their widest, the extensions will be about 10 feet. The city has already agreed to make these extensions permanent after the demonstration, though they will paint official white diagonal stripes for visibility over the demonstration. So if your artwork happens to incorporate those kinds of stripes to begin with, you may have a shot at your work remaining as-is!

#2: 300 North curb extensions. This element will involve 2 pairs of curb extensions on 300 N. At their widest, they will extend about 10 feet. Whether this element will become a permanent adoption will depend on its measured success during the demonstration, though the artwork will likely be washed off at the end of the demonstration.

#3: 300 North mini roundabout. See above photo. This element will involve a mini roundabout similarly sized to the one on 200 N 200 E. You’ll have about 16 feet in diameter to work with. Whether this element will become a permanent adoption will depend on its measured success during the demonstration, though the artwork will likely be washed off at the end of the demonstration.

#4: Sharrows: we do not need any artwork for this element. The city will install these, which will be a permanent addition to the bikeway.

Image result for sharrows

Get inspired by past tactical urbanism projects:

Phil Sarnoff’s Presentation on Provo’s Path to a Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community

Phil Sarnoff, executive director of Bike Utah, came to our June 2019 meeting to present on steps Provo can take to help reach gold-level status as a Bicycle Friendly Community. Be sure to take a few minutes to check out the presentation here. You can also view the livestreamed video of the meeting below:

A few highlights include:

  • Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure: We need to continue efforts to provide a robust, connected network that allows all users (ages 8 to 88) to move comfortably around the city by bicycle.
  • Data: Bicycle counters can help decision-makers become more aware of the bicycle usage streets are experiencing to justify the money spent on facilities.
  • Strava: If you don’t use Strava yet to track your bike trips, we recommend starting now! Cities have access to the data to help them see where people are riding to further encourage funding active transportation.
  • Safe Routes to School: Help schools become aware of the Safe Routes Utah grant (deadline coming up to apply by July 19) and of bike safety education opportunities.

Be sure to come to or tune in for our July meeting, which will be on July 11th at 5 pm at Community Development.

5 Strategies for Planning for Walking, Biking, & Transit

A friend recently pointed out that while we often talk about culture in making walking, biking, or transit more viable options for our transportation, an equally important component may be planning.

This statement especially resonates when traveling with kids. If I don’t make a solid plan, weather, time constraints, and just plain life are more likely to sweep us back into our car. So here are a few ways planning helps us in our resolve.

#1: Plan for secure, convenient storage: I have been absolutely loving our garage for the past few years (see below for how we hang our bikes in a convenient place near the doors for easy grab-and-go) and I recognize what a privilege it is.

But we also spent 7 years in a 3rd floor condo, during which we kept our bikes locked to the bike racks outside. Sometimes, we did have to deal with unfortunate bike part theft, but we learned that a u-lock/cable combo did the trick in keeping it safe. I kept my daughter’s bike seat in a closet so I could easily grab it on our way down for a ride.

Planning for as much convenience for ourselves as possible in the way we store our gear makes a big difference in our active transportation goals.

#2: Plan for gear: As the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just wrong gear.” I used to think that in order to ride in the winter, I would need a ton of crazy gear. Now I know that if I keep a few simple items on hand, it’s more doable than I realized.

My super fancy gear. U-lock in all weather, gloves, lights for the early evenings, a couple of running jackets layered, a stretchy infinity scarf I use to keep my face warm (sometimes 2), my high-top Converse from high school to keep my ankles warm. Also, I own two bike bags which I have loved for library books, groceries (inexpensive thermal bag helps in the summer), and diaper bag.

I also like having flexible choices available for our active transportation. Sometimes, I want to walk to the bus station, in which case our folding wagon is fabulous to hold the kids and fold away on the bus or at our destination.

Sometimes I want to bike with just one of our kids, in which case I like the seat; other times we use our trailer.

Our trailer has definitely seen better days, and according to the last owner via KSL Classifieds, it has had at least 3 owners. But it continues to serve us well!

#3: Plan for maintenance: Teach kids to get into the habit of checking their brakes and tires each time they go out. Fill tubes with high-quality sealant like Stans Sealant to help fight thorns. And keep a small pump and patch kit handy (consult Youtube if you aren’t sure how to patch your tube).

#4: Plan for distance: I often plan my entire day based on how long my biking, walking, or transit will take me. I start with the appointment time and work backward with the expected travel time, using Google Maps as a general guide.

Though it is true that this takes more time than just hopping in my car, I always see it as an investment because of all the exercise and family time that it builds into my day. Of course, there are times when jumping in our minivan just makes the most sense, but overall, if I’m in the habit of structuring our day to include walking, biking, or transit, it’s more likely to happen.

#5: Plan for making the most of when we do use the car: When I need to purchase bulk diapers, I try to think of other bulky items I’ll need soon and purchase them in the same trip. If there are several errands I need to run, I try grouping them together in one car trip (see Utah’s Clear the Air Challenge strategy of “trip-chaining.”)

During one of our recent trips to University Place via walking and the new UVX bus line, my kids and I got talking about why we walk, bike, and use transit so often when a car is faster. As we passed the holiday/rush-hour gridlock and packed parking lots, we contrasted that with how we were warmly snuggled along the back row of our bus. I told her that for me, holding my little ones’ hands and cuddling, reading, or snacking during a pleasant walk or ride fills my cup (whereas fighting stressful traffic drains it).

And that is worth planning for.

2018 Pedestrian Summit

At the Pedestrian Summit on November 29th, Provo was well-represented by  attendees (at least five) and presenters. Chad Thomas, from Economic Development, and Mary Wade from the PTA board at Timpanogos Elementary, participating in a panel discussion that followed the keynote speech of Jon Larsen, Salt Lake City’s Transportation Director.
Here are the highlights of that talk and the panel:
Jon Larsen: “It is our job to “design for stupid” because we’re all a little stupid sometimes. I hope to someday see pedestrian fatality as a thing of the past as we now view polio. The best way to make real strides toward our zero fatalities goal is this: we need to differentiate between the design for highways and the design for streets.”
Juliette Ruzzio, keynote speaker and Miss Wheelchair America 2005: “Transportation is an equalizer for people with disabilities. When we design for the most vulnerable, the transportation system works for us all.”

Chad Thomas: It’s important to be willing to say no to developers until they agree to standards we have set to keep our cities attractive and walkable. Chad also stressed the importance of leaders truly walking the talk and moving toward active transportation and transit.

Mary Wade: Nearly 100 families responded to the PTA’s survey to find out how they feel about walking or biking to Timpanogos, a walking-designated elementary school here in Provo. Regularly seeking out and responding to their voices is essential if we want to get our Safe Routes to School plans right for education, engineering, enforcement, encouragement, and evaluation. We can work toward healthier cultural norms as we positively frame our messaging for what’s possible in our neighborhoods.