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Massachusetts Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a statewide program of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) aimed at promoting walking and bicycling to school in order to improve student health, promote active and healthy transportation options, reduce traffic congestion, and improve air quality in Massachusetts. SRTS works with over 670 elementary and middle school partners in over 180 communities across the Commonwealth. The Program is modeled after the National Safe Routes to School program initiative to encourage public elementary and middle school students to walk and bicycle to school safely by implementing the five E’s: education, encouragement, enforcement, evaluation, and engineering.
Education is a strong first step in starting a Safe Routes program as it promotes lifelong safe travel behaviors. Through a combination of pedestrian and bicycle safety education sessions, as well as school safety assemblies and workshops, students are given the tools they need to be smart and safe pedestrians and bicyclists.
Walking and Biking To School: What Are The Benefits?
Traveling to school is an essential part of a student’s day. Conventionally, students may choose to ride a car or take public transportation to reach their school, especially if it’s quite far from their residence. On another end, there are a lot of benefits to walking and biking that students may not initially think of.
With this in mind, here are the most significant benefits of walking and biking to school:
- Get Physically Active: Morning exercise is the best way to wake up yourself before another school day. Walking or biking to school promotes physical activity as you’ll have to work your body, mostly your legs, to arrive at your destination.
- Avoid Traffic and Stress: School days are notorious for heavy road traffic. Plus, it’s stressful and worrying to think about getting late for school. With walking or biking, you can easily squeeze your way through traffic. Also, you won’t have to worry about parking, especially if your school’s vast enough, like The Fay School with 8.5 acres.
- Save On Fare and Gas: There’s no need to explain this one. You can save a lot of money from walking and biking as you won’t have to pay for transportation fare and avoid paying for gas.
- Contribute To The Environment: By walking and biking to school, you’re helping nature in many ways—you avoid consuming car fuel and even car manufacturing materials. In return, you’ll get to enjoy the walk or ride, especially if you’re in an urban and less polluted area, which can inspire you to go to school.
Employing Safety Education To Student Pedestrians and Bikers
Pedestrian safety education trains adult volunteers to lead students through hands on safety walks to teach students safe pedestrian behaviors through direct experience. Partner schools also have the option of using our mentor training model, which involves teaching pedestrian safety to fifth grade students who in turn directly train second grade students.
Bicycle safety education brings trained bicycle safety educators directly to the classrooms of fourth and eighth grade students to teach the fundamentals of bicycle safety. The program staff bring a helmet and bicycle to demonstrate how to properly fit and wear a bicycle helmet and make sure a bicycle is safe to ride. This is an interactive learning session that allows students to demonstrate the bicycle safety skills they’ve learned. Having bicycle safety take place in a students’ own classroom provides a great opportunity for schools and districts to implement bicycle safety education directly into the school curriculum.
Educational trainings enable students to make smarter and safer choices regarding their own transportation behaviors. Encouragement events and activities such as International Walk to School Day, state and local walk and bike to school days, walking school bus programs, and bike trains allow students to implement the skills they’ve learned while adding a component of excitement around increasing physical activity and choosing healthy and active transportation options.
To find out how your school can partner with the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program, contact Statewide Coordinator Erin Reed at 857-368-8648 or Erin.Reed@dot.state.ma.us or visit www.Mass.gov/MassDOT/SafeRoutes.
SRTS partner organizations WalkBoston and MassBike have been instrumental in developing and implementing the SRTS pedestrian and bicycle education components of the state’s program. Their work continues to enhance the mission of the program within our partner schools and local communities.
The Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program is sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation with funds from the Federal Highway Division. Safe Routes to School models of inclusiveness emphasize a collaborative, community-focused approach that fosters mutual partnerships between advocacy groups, law enforcement, education leaders, and public health departments. The Massachusetts model offers customized programs for school communities depending upon their individual needs and can be tailored to meet each school’s physical fitness, safety and environmental priorities.