Safe Routes to School
Safe Routes to School is a program which aims to provide infrastructure and education so that students may walk and bicycle to school. Five decades ago, the majority of children arrived at school by walking or bicycling. Today, the majority arrive in automobiles. Studies show that mode of travel to school is a major factor in the staggering rise in the nation's childhood obesity rate. According to the Trust for America's Health, over 30 percent of children in Tennessee are overweight or obese. Safe Routes to School programs started in California over 10 years ago. Today, programs coordinated by schools, teachers, parents, local governments and communities leaders are found in all 50 states.
These programs provide such things as:
- Applications for grant funding such as the Safe Routes to School grant program available through state Departments of Transportation for infrastructure projects such as crosswalks, pedestrian signals, sidewalks, and greenways.
- Applications for grant funding for student and teacher education on bicycle and pedestrian safety skills for students.
- Walking School Bus programs, where parents and teachers lead children on foot or on bicycle to school in a group.
- Creation of Safe Routes to School committees to address concerns such as broken or missing sidewalks, traffic speeds, perceived stranger danger, stray animals and other physical or social barriers in walking or bicycling to school.
Many resources are available for Safe Routes to School programs and funding:
In the Nashville Area
Nashville has several Safe Routes to School programs coordinated by local groups such as Walk/Bike Nashville. A few elementary schools that participate include:
- Eakin Elementary School (Davidson County)
- Lockland Elementary School (Davidson County)
- Nolensville Elementary School (Williamson County)
Safe Routes to School Train-the-Trainers
In 2009, the Nashville Area MPO worked with Walk/Bike Nashville, a local bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization, to develop a Train-the-Trainers manual for P.E. teachers on how to teach bicycle and pedestrian safety in elementary school p.e. classes. The funding to develop the manual was provided by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Active Living by Design program, and a second grant awarded by the Middle Tennessee State University Center for Physical Activity and Health in Youth provided the training for the teachers. The grants have enabled almost 100 P.E. teachers at schools in the MPO region to receive professional development training on the two-week elementary school curriculum on Safe Routes to School.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) administers a grant program for Safe Routes to School projects funded by the Federal Transportation bill SAFETEA-LU through the U.S. Department of Transportation. TDOT employees a full-time coordinator, Diana Benedict.
In 2010, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded a grant, written by MPO staff, to the YMCA of Middle TN and the YMCA's Tennessee Pioneering Healthy Communities Program for a Tennessee Safe Routes to School State Network Coordinator (one of twenty funded states). In 2012, Tennessee was selected as one of only seven states to receive three years of funding through the Safe Routes to School National Partnership from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that will fund the network through 2015. Learn more about the State Network Project and contact the State Network Project Coordinator.
In the U.S.
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the National Center for Safe Routes to School funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration are both excellent resources for Safe Routes to School. You can find out tips for starting a Safe Routes to School Program, how to address any questions or concerns, find training and webinars on Safe Routes to School, read articles and much more.
Senior Policy Analyst