Safe Routes to School is a program designed to decrease traffic and pollution and improve the health of children and the community. The program encourages walking and biking to school, and addresses safety concerns of parents by encouraging greater enforcement of traffic laws, and exploring ways to create safer streets.
Since the 1970s there has been a dramatic reduction in the numbers of children walking or biking to school, and an increase in the numbers of children arriving at school as the only passenger in a car. More cars traveling around schools and in and out of parking lots create additional traffic safety problems for kids, leading to even fewer being able to walk or bike to school. In addition, when parents have to drive children to school, they are often unable to use alternative transportation for their work commutes, leading to additional traffic and pollution.
The Safe Routes to School program is sponsored as a state initiative by the California Department of Health Services, with support from a number of other state agencies. A national pilot Safe Routes to School program in Marin County found that more than twenty percent of overall traffic during peak school drop-off and pick-up times was associated with parents driving students to school. Classroom mobility surveys performed in the fall, before the Safe Routes to School outreach began, and again in the spring after several months of outreach, showed a drop in the percentage of kids arriving at school as the only passenger in a car from 62 percent to 38 percent. The Marin program also initiated a pedestrian and bicycle safety curriculum for 1st and 4th graders during Physical Education classes.
The District is a partner in local Santa Barbara County efforts, which are led by the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation (COAST). APCD is also interested in promoting carpooling and taking the bus to school for those students who do not live close enough to school to bike or walk.
Walk to School Day was first held in 1998. Just a few years later, the event is celebrated in more than thirty countries in the world. In some schools Walk to School Day has expanded to Walk to School week.
For more information on Walk to School Day and the Safe Routes to School Program, start with these links:
See Healthy Lompoc and COAST Safe Routes to School to be part of local efforts, and download materials and more information. Learn about Walk & Roll Challenges to encourage walking, biking, carpooling and taking the bus to school.
Safe Routes Lesson Plans for the Classroom developed by Marin County teachers
California’s Walk to School Day Headquarters: find out about efforts around the state, and register your school.
To find out more about the connections between air pollution and promoting walking, biking, carpooling, or taking the bus to school, contact the District Public Information Officer, Lyz Hoffman.