Safe Routes to School

Safe Routes LogoWhat is Safe Routes to School?

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is an international movement that has been implemented in communities throughout the United States. The concept is to increase the number of children who walk or bike to school safely by funding projects that resolve barriers to walking, such as poor walkways, limited adult supersion or crime. These programs also encourage walking and biking to school as a way to incorporate a healthy, active lifestyle into a daily routine.

The components of a SRTS program use a public health model of health promotion, commonly referred to as the 5-E’s;

  • Evaluation
  • Education
  • Encouragement
  • Enforcement
  • Engineering

The program begins with an evaluation of the current situation at the school by surveying the parents and students on their concerns and motivations, conducting focus groups to drill down to specific issues and conducting a tally of the number of students who walk or bike to school. In addition, the SRTS team works with City egineers, San Diego Police, San Diego Unified School Police, school administrators, parents and students on conducting a “walk audit’ of the school perimeter.

In this walk audit each team member sites concerns such as poor signage and walkways, traffic issues and current walking behaviors (view the video below to get more information on walk audits) From this evaluation engineering  begins to work on structural issues and signage, Police begin to work on enforcement of specific traffic and pedestrian patterns and the school develops a safety patrol to address issues on the school campus.

As part of this evaluation, the team also identifies what will motivate students to walk or bike to school and begins programming in education and encouragement. Schools can choose various educatonal presentations from a menu of services so that each program is tailored to their specific needs. To encourage students to walk or bike to school each school participates in the Active4me program. This program registers students, and provides a scan card, which tallies how many times they walk or bike to school. how many miles they have walked, how much carbon emissions have been spared and how many gallons of gas saved.

This information is also used in the educational curriclum, incorporated in math class, enviromental science, social studies and english classes to link the benefits of a active lifestyle to many aspects of their educational experience. At the conclusion of the three-year program, evaluation is again conducted to assess if changes have been made and provide recommendations to the school and community for sustaining the positive changes developed during the course of the program.

So How Does Rady Children’s Fit In?

According to records from the Trauma Center at Rady Children’s and the County Emergency Medical Services, pedestrian injuries are a leading cause of unintentional death for school aged children. Many of these injuries are preventable through increased driver, pedestrian, and bicycle safety education efforts. Specific communities such as southeastern San Diego and National City have  the highest rates of pedestrian injury and highest rates of cardiovasular disease, diabetes and asthma in the county.

To address ths concerning trend, the Center for Healthier Communities at Rady Children’s  has secured several federally funded Safe Routes to School Grants. Most recently, the Center completed a three-year SRTS program in the elementary schools in  community of southeastern San Diego. Results from the 3 year program yielded promising results including:

  • up to a 91.6% improvment in the number of children walking or biking to school, 55% increase in parents allowing their child to walk to school with an adult
  • 61% increase in parents allowing their child to walk independently after 4th grade
  • 24% reduction of lack of crossing guards as a barrier
  • 43% reduction of lack of safe walkways as a barrier
  • 19% reduction in speed of traffic as a barrier
  • 10% reduction in crime as a barrier

Currently the SRTS program is active in the community of southeastern San Diego working with all six middle schools, and in National City working with all ten elmentary schools.

How Can I help?

  • Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego welcomes the feedback and involvement of parents, guardians, school staff and other community members. Please talk to the school principal about your concerns.
  • For more information on SRTS, please contact Mary Beth Moran, Program Manager, at 858-576-1700, ext. 3547 or via email at mbmoran@rchsd.org.

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Video: Making Walking to School Safe