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!

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.