Thirty years ago as many as 70% of school age children walked to school. Walking to school is an easy way for children to be physically active and gives them a sense of independence and an opportunity to spend time with their friends at the beginning of each day. However, today the number of children walking to school has declined dramatically and is now between 10 and 15%. The reasons most often cited for this decline include distance to the school, traffic around school, poor infrastructure (lack of sidewalks, crosswalks, etc), weather, crime, and school policy.
As a result of this, there has been an increase in the number of parents driving their children to school instead. Studies have shown that 27% of morning traffic is due to school related trips. This trend has led to an increase in traffic congestion and pollution, as well as a decrease in the amount of physical activity that children are getting on a daily basis, the effect of which has led to a rise in childhood obesity, asthma, and diabetes. Overall, these factors have combined to contribute to the declining health of our environment, our communities, and our children.
Safe Routes to School is a program that aims to reduce congestion resulting from school related traffic and promote healthier lifestyles and communities by enabling children to safely walk and bike to school. The program adopts a comprehensive approach which includes four components:
- Education - Lessons which teach students skills necessary to safely walk and bike to school are integrated into the school's curriculum. Materials about walking and bike safety are also distributed to parents.
- Encouragement - Promotional events, such as contests and walk-to-school days, are held throughout the year and provide incentives for students to become involved in the program. Outreach campaigns also target parents to encourage their children to walk or bike to school.
- Enforcement - Traffic regulations, including speed limits and yielding to pedestrians, are strictly enforced in the area around the school. Crossing guard programs also help to create a safer environment for students to walk and bike to school.
- Engineering - Infrastructure improvements are made around the school that help to improve the ability of students to bike and walk safely, such as sidewalk improvements, traffic calming and speed reduction improvements, pedestrian and bicycle crossing improvements, bicycle parking facilities, and traffic diversion improvements in the area surrounding the school.
A successful program requires the efforts of educators, parents, elected officials, transportation planners, and of course students. These groups working together toward a common goal will lead to an improved quality of life by decreasing the amount of traffic accidents, congestion, and air pollution around schools and improving the health and physical activity of students.
Morris County Safe Routes to School
In September 2005, the Morris County Division of Transportation kicked off its Safe Routes to School Program at Duffy Elementary School and MacKinnon Middle School in Wharton Borough, NJ. The RBA Group was brought on as a consultant for this project. They have worked with MCDOT, school officials, parents, and students to develop a Safe Routes to School plan. This plan includes implementation strategies for each of the four E's mentioned above: education, encouragement, enforcement, and engineering.
Wharton Safe Routes to School Plan
Click here for "Wharton Safe Routes to School Newsletter 6/07."
Click here for "Wharton Safe Routes to School Newsletter 4/07."
Click here for "Wharton Safe Routes to School Newsletter 9/06."
Click here for "Wharton Safe Routes to School Newsletter 3/06."
Morris County Division of Transportation
P.O. Box 900, Morristown, NJ 07963
TransOptions’ Safe Routes to School Program
NJDOT has partnered with TransOptions to administer a new statewide education and encouragement program. TransOptions offers a variety of FREE programs that access the far-reaching benefits of walking and/or bicycling to school. TransOptions staff works not only with students, but with school administrators, faculty, parents and law enforcement officials to create safe and healthy environments for our children. Whether it is coordinating special events such as the Walking School Bus or Bike-to-School Day, presenting in-class bicycle safety training programs or involving students in walkability studies, TransOptions staff provides the education and encouragement needed to foster the creation of livable and safer communities. For more information, please contact:
Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator
2 Ridgedale Ave, Suite 200
Cedar Knolls, NJ 07927
Phone: (973) 267-7600
New Jersey Safe Routes to School Programs
A federally funded Safe Routes to School Program was created by SAFETEA-LU, the most recent transportation reauthorization bill signed into law by the President in August of 2005. This legislation provides states with specific funding to implement Safe Routes to School programs at the local level. New Jersey has chosen three municipalities to serve as pilot programs for the state's Safe Routes to School Program. These three municipalities are Montclair, Lumberton, and Jamesburg.
New Jersey Safe Routes to School Coordinator:
Elise Bremer-Nei, AICP/PP
Safe Routes to School State Coordinator
Office of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs
NJ Dept of Transportation
P.O. Box 600, Trenton, NJ 08625-0600
Phone: 609-530-2765; fax: 609-530-5411
TransOptions’ Safe Routes to School Program
New Jersey Safe Routes to School
FHWA Safe Routes to School
Marin County Safe Routes to Schools
National Walk to School Day
NJDOT Safe Routes to School