Safe Routes to School
Safe Routes to School
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a nationwide program that aims to encourage K-8 students to bike and walk to school with educational and fun campaigns, programs, and activities. TJCOG's Safe Routes to School Program partners with schools in its seven-county region of Durham, Chatham, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Orange, and Wake. The program is funded by a three-year grant (FY19-22) from the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOTs) Non-Infrastructure Transportation Alternatives Program and was granted an extension recently. It will now expire in Dec 2022. There will likely be another round of funding announced by NCDOT in the coming months.
The key goals of TJCOG's program are:
- Coordinate activities, events, and campaigns in collaboration with schools, policy organizations, and community partners, to reduce traffic congestion, air pollution, and safety hazards near schools by shifting some of the vehicle based trips to biking and walking.
- Promote equitable access to safe and affordable biking and walking options for all kids.
- Create awareness about the academic, physical, and emotional health benefits of biking and walking to school.
You can sign up here for our quarterly newsletter to know about our program updates and exciting event offerings.
Why Safe Routes to School?
In the last half-century, the number of students who are walking and biking to school has dropped from about half of all students to just 13 percent (National Center for Safe Routes to School). In that same time span, we have seen an increase in childhood obesity, unsafe traffic conditions around school sites, and increased costs to schools associated with bus transportation. Additionally, more students are being dropped off by cars which leads to traffic congestion and diminished air quality at schools.
- Parents driving their students to school comprise 10 to 14 percent of morning rush hour traffic (McDonald, Brown, Marchetti, & Pedroso, 2011).
- “Schools located in areas with the highest air pollution levels had the lowest attendance rates—a potential indicator of poor health—and the highest proportions of students who failed to meet state educational testing standards” (Mohai, Kweon, Lee, & Ard, 2011).
None of this is a good recipe for success for children in the Triangle, especially those who live in the state-determined 1.5-mile walk zone around many public schools.
TJCOG’s SRTS program seeks to improve K-8 students' ability to reap the benefits of walking and biking to school to keep our kids Happy, Healthy, and Focused!
In our modern world, walking, biking, and rolling to school can provide children an opportunity to:
- Disconnect from electronic devices and obtain their recommended 60 minutes of aerobic exercise per day.
- Reap the mental health and educational benefits of physical activity.
- Socialize with friends, classmates, and their larger neighborhoods/communities.
- Develop social skills, establish lifelong fitness habits, and have more exposure to the natural world.
- Contribute to a healthier environment and better school site by decreasing traffic congestion and tailpipe emissions.
How Can My School Get Involved?
Any public K-8 school in TJCOG's seven county region of Wake, Durham, Orange, Lee, Johnston, Chatham and Moore is welcome to participate in our Safe Routes to School Program. We have programming and activities for students regardless of if they currently walk or bike to school. We are especially committed to engaging students from diverse backgrounds by providing them with specific support as necessary.
Below are some of our offerings:
- Assistance to set up/coordinate annual Walk/Bike to School Events.
- Fun promotional items and giveaways like fluorescent shoelaces, mousepads, water bottles, etc.
- Tabling at any ongoing school events (PTA/PTSO Meetings, Parent-Teacher Nights, Sports Day, Cultural Day, etc.) to talk to parents and students about safe biking and walking to school.
- Set up a Traffic Garden, which is essentially a scaled-down interactive and fun version of real world’s transportation network (lanes, crosswalks, traffic signs/lights, etc.) for students to learn about and refine their biking knowledge and abilities in a safe and educational environment. We have loaner Pop-Up Traffic Garden Kits that schools may borrow to set up a traffic garden on their own. Else, TJCOG’s is happy to assist in the same.
- Regional contests, such as Sketch Your Way to School to encourage students to draw artwork displaying their unique vision for the future of their routes to their school sites.
Additionally, we are working on a kit with supplies and instructions on how to paint your school bike parking lot to make it inviting, colorful and fun! Bike rack art has grown in popularity in recent years and encourages higher biking rates amongst kids as well as adults. Check out the bike rack mural at Raleigh Union Station.
We are always looking for new ideas/activities to promote biking and walking and do reach out to us if you have one. Just send us an email at email@example.com so that we can set up a meeting to chat and make it happen!
"Sketch Your Way to School" 2022 Art Contest
During the Spring of 2022, our Safe Routes to School Program organized its first regional art contest: "Sketch Your Way to School". We asked students in the Triangle to draw their ideas for routes to and from their schools that incorporate fun and safe pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. We were very impressed by the quality of submissions and the thoughtfulness of submitted entries.
In conjunction with Triangle Spokes Group, we we're able to offer a bicycle and helmet to our Grand Prize Winner, Safia from Cary (see picture above)! We appreciate Safia and all of our participants for showing us their designs for safer routes to school! Special thanks to Triangle Spokes Group for donating a new bike and helmet to our Grand Prize Winner!
Walk and Bike to School Days
One of our continuous programs is the yearly facilitation and assistance to schools on Walk to School Day (October 5, 2022) and Bike to School Day (May 4, 2022). While these specific days are an excellent time for your school to host a walk/bike-to-school day event, they can be held anytime during the school year.
In May of 2022, our Safe Routes to School Program held a Walk to School Day event at Spring Valley Elementary in Durham. Several hundred students participated and had the chance to win prizes by doing so! This included our grand prize winner receiving a new bike and helmet!
Whether your school has been participating in Walk and Bike to School Days for over a decade or is interested in getting started now, TJCOG is here to assist you in energizing and supporting your students to take a step towards alternative transportation at a Walk or Bike to School Day event.
Pop-up Traffic Gardens
A traffic garden is a scaled-down version of streets, traffic features, and other roadway elements for education, skill-building, and active engagement of kids. It has several other names such as safety town, safety city, safety village, traffic park, etc. A traffic garden essentially creates a smaller street world for kids to navigate and practice how to use roadways, intersections, and crossings in a safe and fun environment free of motor vehicles.
- Paragraph Adapted from Discover Traffic Gardens
Our Safe Routes to School Program has been fortunate to gain experience creating and assisting with Pop-up Traffic Gardens across the Triangle. With our partners Bike Durham, we brought a Traffic Garden to Durham’s Earth Day Festival; we assisted with the garden at Marbles Museum in Downtown Raleigh; and laid down one of the largest pop-ups on record at the Town of Apex’s Vision Zero Event in June!
With a few Traffic Gardens now under our belt, we are excited to begin offering Traffic Garden Kits that schools and community groups can check out! These kits include designs, supplies, tools, and our volunteer guide for Traffic Garden instruction. If you are interested in checking out a kit, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.