Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Safe Routes to School (SRTS)

Some may be familiar with the Safe Routes to School program. Safe Routes to School, or SRTS, is a national bike and pedestrian program for public schools where federal dollars are allocated to the state to develop and implement programs at the local level. It's a win-win for everyone. The program started in 1997, but it has been federally funded since 2005. Urban, rural and suburban schools across the country, including in South Carolina, have received funding for and implemented successful SRTS programs.

Here's how it works:
1.  Funding. As previously stated, funding comes from the Feds. The money is allocated to the State - usually at the Department of Transportation. So, that means that parents don't have to participate in any fundraisers. Nor are additional taxes levied. The funds already exist, and they are available for your community! Here's the website for the DOT site for SRTS in South Carolina. Here's another website about what YOU can do to get the SRTS ball rolling in your community.

2. Support.  There is an existing network of resources available to so no school has to embark on this process alone. Most states will have a Safe Routes to School Coordinator (or similarly named position) who is in charge of the State Program. In some states there is also a SRTS Support Center, in addition to the DOT, like Georgia. These contain ideas, materials and people who are experienced in promoting, planning and implementing SRTS programs. Take advantage of these resources! And, don't forget the simplest resource search begins with your favorite internet search engine.

3.  Program Components. The 5's E's, as they are called, are the five components that make up the majority of the program. Here they are, in no particular order:
  • Engineering -  This is the term that describes the broad design, implementation, operation concepts as well as the maintenance of traffic control devices. Typical "engineering" products are new or improved sidewalks, trails, safety processes for before and after school times and activities. These improvements are easiest to see and use.
  • Education - This term describes the subject matter and approach to teaching students, teachers, administers and parents about bicycle, pedestrian and automobile safety. Education can take place in the classroom or during specific events and activities outside the school.
  • Encouragement - This term is the most fun! Adults in the community can encourage their students to participate in special biking and walking to school days or events. Students will be more likely to be involved if they are encouraged!
  • Evaluation - This part of the SRTS program is determines if the goals of the individual community strategies are being met and to assure that resources are directed toward efforts that show the greatest likelihood of success. Also, evaluation can identify needed adjustments to the program while it is underway.
  • Enforcement - This term addresses the need for student's continuous safety. Enforcement can be achieved through a network of community members - teachers, students, adult crossing guards, parents, watchful neighbors, etc. - working together to promote safe walking, bicycling and driving. This can be accomplished through safety awareness, education and, where necessary, the use of ticketing for dangerous behaviors.

4.  Commitment. The level of commitment is a choice made by the teachers, administration and parents.  This is not a federally or state mandated program. You can choose to participate - or not. Schools can commit to one year or more, depending on the level of interest, support, energy and success. Every school and program is based on the unique characteristics of your community.

If you're interested in learning more about SRTS or taking action, start today! Contact the state DOT SRTS coordinator or visit the National SRTS website.

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