Safe Routes to School programs embrace the belief that children deserve to have safe ways to walk or bike to school. Not only do these programs create safer access for families, but they improve the quality of life for entire neighborhoods and communities.
If you want to get involved in improving the Safe Routes program to your neighborhood school, check out the tips and resources below!
#1: Recognize that consistent action over time is key for lasting, meaningful change. As noted by Tyler Norris, keynote speaker from the 2018 Move Utah Summit, we’ve got to be “all in” if we want to effect change to build healthier communities. Watch his keynote here (watch from 32:00-42:00 for this portion of the discussion).
#2: Coordinate with the School Community Council. Utah state law requires each school’s community council to address Safe Routes by creating a map of how their students can walk or bike to school, and then annually meeting with the school district, engineering, and the police department to review and submit the map. They also annually submit a Plan will also identify possible interventions needed like new crosswalks, crossing guards, sidewalks or other safety enhancements (more on the process from Provo City’s page). See how you can get involved with the monthly School Community Council meetings and contribute to the discussion.
#3: Seek feedback from families and students themselves. Make this a regular part of your evaluation plan, and make sure it carries over from year to year, even if you are no longer with the school. Other specific tips include:
- Try multiple ways for the survey to reach families (we were most successful when teachers shared it with parents during Parent Teacher Conferences).
- Ask parents to identify benefits as well as obstacles to keep potential open for positive framing and discussion.
- Use checkboxes for ease of use.
- Make sure translated copies are available where needed.
- Feel free to create a copy of the survey used at Timpanogos! Just add your own map (we did a screenshot from Google Maps & adjusted to grayscale) and you’re good to go! More comprehensive walkability surveys are available on the Safe Routes to School National Partnership website.
#4: Be mindful to frame Safe Routes in positive, effective terms. Tailor your message based on the feedback you receive in surveys so you can focus on benefits that the families at your school care about most. Two resources we recommend for their specific guidelines:
- “Effective Messaging for Promoting Biking and Walking: Best Practices & Equity Framing” from Safe Routes to School National Partnership
- “Better Health Toolkit” from Get Healthy Utah (pages 16-17 in particular)
#5: Use resources on the state and national level. Safe Routes Utah has recently rolled out a new website, replacing the old SNAP program. It includes an enhanced mapping system, a multi-media assembly that can be used across the state, planning and safety fair guides, and more. Safe Routes Grants is also available there to provide funding opportunities for schools across the state. Other useful resources include:
- Bike Utah school education program
- National Walk & Bike to School Day website
- Las Cruces School District (New Mexico) How to Start Your Program slides
- Follow the above organizations on social media!
#6: Always have a specific action plan. Include all 6 E’s of SRTS: Encouragement, Education, Engineering, Enforcement, Evaluation, and Equity. The Safe Routes to School Guide is a great place to find ideas for actionable goals, from walking school buses (feel free to make a copy of your own form using our contact survey), to tactical urbanism for safer intersections, to special events. Keep looking toward the next goal and then the next to keep momentum going for your school. Create and share a planning worksheet, or use this worksheet from the SRTS National Partnership.
Keep up the great work! Feel free to email Mary Wade, who compiled this page as she worked on the Timpanogos SRTS plan: firstname.lastname@example.org. And we would love to feature any success stories here that you’d like to share!