Safe Routes to School
Schools are a hub for health. Nearly half of all students walked or biked to school in 1969¹. Today, only 14% of Omaha students actively commute.² As part of Live Well Omaha Kids’ efforts to engage with schools and the community in order to promote healthy families, we have designated Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) as one of the focuses of our work.
- Encourages increased student physical activity through safe and active transport to and from school
- Promotes walking, bicycling, or other forms of active transportation among students and their families
- Educates the community and improves the built environment to ensure safe places for children to walk and bike to and from school
- The CDC lists SRTS as an evidence-based, cost-effective intervention showing health impact within five years of implementation
In 2017, Live Well Omaha Kids was selected to receive a Preventing Childhood Obesity Community grant from Children’s Hospital & Medical Center to work with CUES to implement SRTS at All Saints, Holy Name, and Sacred Heart School. Data collected at all three schools reveal a majority of students arrive by single family vehicle, despite many living within a mile of the school. Surveys completed by parents identified common barriers to walking or biking to schools, such as distance, weather, and perception of safety. These surveys, coupled with data from neighborhood walk audits, informed the strategies for encouraging students and parents to participate in the SRTS selected by each newly- formed School Advisory Council.
Programs, policies and projects slated for implementation during the summer and fall of 2018 include: painting crosswalks and bike racks, lengthening crosswalk lights, incorporating bike safety education into classroom curriculum, forming a neighborhood watch, hosting community clean up and Walk to School days, and installing signage to designate safe routes to school and local family attractions.
¹The National Center for Safe Routes to School (2011). How Children Get to School: School Travel Patterns from 1969 to 2009. http://saferoutesinfo.org/sites/default/files/resources/NHTS_school_travel_report_2011_0.pdf
²Professional Research Consultants. (2015, October). 2015 PRC Child & Adolescent Community Health Needs Assessment: Douglas & Sarpy Counties, Nebraska, Pottawattamie County, Iowa. Retrieved from boystownhospital.org: https://www.boystownhospital.org/AboutUs/Documents/ChildAdolescentCommunityHealthNeedsAssessmentReport.pdf
Resources to Begin a Safe Routes to School Program:
- School advisory council description – the purpose of this document is to describe the roles and responsibilities of a SRTS school advisory council (SAC), a critical element of Safe Routes to School program success. The SAC is comprised of diverse stakeholders who lead strategy, nominate champions and ensure that progress is sustained throughout the planning, implementation and evaluation process.
- Strategy checklist – SRTS is an evidence-based program that utilizes four complementary strategies to encourage active commuting to/ from school. These strategies are education, encouragement, engineering, and enforcement. While no two SRTS programs are exactly alike, the options for promoting walking and biking to school are just as varied- including offering bike safety education, starting a walking school bus, refreshing crosswalks to increase visibility, and enforcing existing traffic laws to ensure students can safely navigate intersections and street crossings.
- Memorandum of Agreement – A signed commitment details the goals and expectations of school advisory council members. After a shared vision of the SRTS program has been established, each member should sign the memorandum of agreement, which indicates they understand individual expectations, commit to ongoing participation and know what support they are entitled to from the community organization managing the program.
- SRTS Timeline – A timeline of the SRTS program provides school advisory council members and others with clarity on project deliverables. Creating a timeline based on SMART goals helps ensure your SRTS work is focused and stays on track. The timeline is a living document that can and should be modified over time and revisited regularly at SAC meetings. What’s a SMART goal you ask? A SMART goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
- Walk Audit Invitation Flyer – A walk audit is a solution- focused, strengths based process of mapping assets and barriers to safe walking and bicycling by actually walking a typical route a child would take to school. The walk audit is conducted by a diverse group of stakeholders who each bring a unique perspective to inform consensus solutions that will improve neighborhood walkability for all.
- Safe Routes map – The Safe Routes to Holy Name map was created with input from the School Advisory Council, which conducted a walk audit to identify and prioritize neighborhood factors that support or inhibit active commuting. Utilizing geographic information system (GIS) mapping tools, the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) created the Holy Name map, which displays common paths students and their families can take to walk or bike to school based on where they live.
- Omaha World-Herald article: ‘Safe Routes’ program encourages Omaha students to walk, bike to school
- The Catholic Voice article: Safe Routes, Exercise Among Cues’ Goals
- Walk Audit blog: Taking it to the Streets: Community Walk Audits Reveal Barriers for Students
- Program Launch blog: Safe Routes to Holy Name Program Launches
- The Catholic Voice article: Fitness Effort Prompts Changes
- WOWT 6 News coverage: Touching Up Crosswalks Before School Year