The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program is an initiative to promote and increase safe bicycling and walking practices amongst elementary and middle school students. This program uses a collaborative community focus to bridge the gap between health and transportation in communities.
The SRTS program is based on six founding principles: Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Evaluation, Engineering, and Equity. Education serves to open the door and begin the conversation around school safety. This pillar of school transportation safety attempts to generate discussion between children, parents, schools, municipalities and other stakeholders. Encouragement of stakeholder and school participation becomes vital to securing a robust school transportation program. Encouragement of participation in the SRTS can range from event organization such as walking/bicycling school bus groups to giveaways sponsored by partner organizations supplying safety tools such as bicycle helmets and reflectors. Beyond community stakeholders, the SRTS programs partner with law enforcement entities to ensure that established school transit routes are zones where traffic enforcement is a priority.
Another important foundation of SRTS is the cooperation between parents, schools and local stakeholders to plan and establish safe thoroughfares to school. This research is vital to understanding the origins and frequently used transit ways of students on their way to school. In a similarly cooperative fashion, changes in the built environment and pedestrian infrastructure are identified for improvement by municipal partners, planners, and civil engineers. These changes can vary from installation of higher curb cuts to the creation of dedicated bicycle lanes and even changes in crossing signage or timing.
Of the foundational aspects of SRTS, equity stands as the cornerstone. Equity represents SRTS’s commitment to supporting safe, active and healthy opportunities for children and adults regardless of ability, socioeconomic status or race. This program speaks to MassDOT’s commitment to universal safe access to education.