The Safe Routes Program, is a National program that is focused on improving children’s safety while walking and bicycling to and from school with program benefits that stretch beyond the school day. Participating in a SRTS program can improve the health of our children & community. The common goal of a safe trip to school brings families, neighbors, school officials & community leaders together. Every child - and community - deserves a safe route to school.
At the beginning of the school year, the Wethersfield School Parent Council (WSPC) got together and began discussing topics that we felt were important to the students and families of Wethersfield and what we would like to focus our efforts on. Safe Routes to School was right on the top of the list.
We started a few years ago with our first Walk to School Day. Then we added in Bike to School Day. These events have been very successful one day events with hundreds of students walking and biking to school on those days. This year though, we wanted to see some real data on the number of walkers at each Elementary school. We conducted a survey at each Elementary School on the day before Walk to School Day, Walk to School Day and the day after Walk to school day. Students were asked on those 3 days how they arrived to school and how they were getting home. What we found out was that about 51% of the Elementary students in Wethersfield walked or biked to school on Walk to School Day. On a “normal” day the percentage varies from 8% to 31% depending on the school. This was really interesting data. Of the 51% of students who walked or biked on the one day are students who are actually classified as "bussers" but want to be part of the fun on Bike and Walk to School Days so that percentage is a bit high. Even though that number is skewed we were able to see is that there were potentially more students that could walk to school but weren’t. Our next step was to find out why.
To do that, we conducted on-line surveys to ask families how their students were getting to and from school. We asked what issues affected their decision to allow or not to allow their student to walk or bike to/from school, what would increase the likelihood that their student would walk or bike to school, and additional comments they may have.
Some of the data showed that parents are not having their children walk because of work situations, before or after school daycare, personal feelings on the safety of walking and biking and lack of education for students on the right way to walk and bike to school.
From the survey data we determined providing education for students and parents was needed. Giving students Biking and Pedestrian Safety could help to ease the minds of parents who think their students don’t know the “rules of the road” when it comes to biking and walking to school. Education for parents about the benefits of walking and bike to school, information on starting a “Walking School Bus” and information on our crossing guards could help to ease the fears of parents who are concerned about their young child getting to school on their own as well as the many benefits to the students that walking and biking give them.
We are pleased to let you know that students at the 5 Elementary schools have had in school Biking and Pedestrian Safety Education by Safe Routes to School. They reviewed things like the proper way to cross the street, identifying different DOT signs and the importance of understanding and obeying those signs, identifying other areas to be aware of like dart-outs from driveways and intersections, biking safety such as the importance of seeing, being seen, and remaining in control, at all times when riding a bike.
To address the education of parents and other adults in our community about walking and biking to school, we have created a series of 3 posters. This education campaign was created to inform the public about Benefits of Walking and Biking to School, How to Start a Walking School Bus, and to convey information about our Crossing Guards. These posters will be distributed to the schools and other town organizations. They will also be given in electronic form to be put on town, school, PTO and many other organization’s websites and social media.
We have also begun to address any physical issues with our walking routes. Last year we had audits conducted by engineers that work with the Department of Transportation. These Engineering Site Assessment Audits looked at safety concerns like:
- Poor or missing sidewalks, crosswalks, or handicap ramps on identified routes or in immediate school vicinity.
- Conflicting or insufficient signage and/or pavement markings in immediate school vicinity.
- Cars, trees, shrubs or other elements that obstruct views.
- Hazardous traffic concerns (high speeds, multi-lane crossings, lack of appropriate controls at intersections, etc.)
- Pedestrian hazards such as insufficient drainage, unshoveled sidewalks, or debris on walking routes.
- Unsafe conditions during drop-off and pick-up times.
- Improperly designated school zone.
- Scary people, dogs, or high crime areas.
The audits were written and then went to the Department of Transportation for review and recommendations or edits. We are just starting to get the audits back and will be meeting next week to discuss the recommendations with each schools Safe Routes representatives and town personnel. The good news is that the Engineer’s initial feeling at the time the audits were done was that Wethersfield is a model town for walking and biking to school.
The students really love coming to school with friends and family from their neighborhoods! We are also letting the students and their families know that the Central Connecticut Health District office at the Town Hall has brand new helmets for sale for just $10.00!
Click on the photos below to enlarge