Safe Routes to School in Florida-Stories from a Veteran
Hi, welcome to my blog.
Safe Routes to School has been a special interest of mine since raising five children and helping them get to and from school. Many of the direct routes to school were unsafe, so they found backstreets to ride their bicycles, but in upper grades I worried about them having to cross a major highway. It became apparent that the roads were only designed for motor vehicles.
After losing a daughter to a traffic crash, I started working as a transportation planner at West Florida Regional Planning Council in the early 1990's. My main focus was to keep other parents from losing a child to traffic. As a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator I did bicycle/pedestrian plans for each Metropolitan Planning Organization in the region. Working with the advisory committees, emphasis was given to Safe Ways to School in the project ranking criteria. Projects around schools were also given priority in managing the Transportation Enhancement Projects. Serving on Community Traffic Safety Teams provided an opportunity to build safety projects around schools in a shorter timeframe.
Florida passed Safe Ways to School legislation before the federal program was created. So how did Safe Ways to School in Florida work and what did we learn? First we pulled together a representative school team. Where every student lived was mapped and a walking audit done to show the committee what hazards the students faced on their daily trips. It was like getting out of your car to run or bicycle and realizing that a route looked totally different! The safest routes were identified and needed projects prioritized to fix hazards. A traffic safety unit was added to the PE curriculum for all grades.
While doing Neighborhood Traffic Management at the county level, I couldn’t help myself! I did a Safe Routes to School audit of every school in the county and created a prioritized list of needed projects for every school.
Being administrator of Florida’s crossing guard program helped me see the value of properly trained guards at hazardous intersections.
Being at the National Partnership it is refreshing to zoom out to the big picture and see what is happening nationally. Instead of working on school projects on a county and regional level, I’ll be looking at policy reform in Florida to result in the award and obligation of federal transportation funds, street scale improvements and joint use agreements.
In future blogs we will talk about what is happening with these three policy priorities in Florida. Contact me to join the Florida network list.