Who Says Rules Are Made To Be Broken?
Whoever says rules are made to be broken is not aware of this interesting fact: Safe Routes to School-related laws have been effective in reducing injuries and increasing walking and bicycling to school.
A recent study by Chriqui and colleagues (2012) found that state laws related to bicycle and pedestrian safety have had positive impacts on active travel to school (ATS). The state policies that influenced ATS in this study were: (1) minimum bussing distances, (2) hazardous route exemptions, (3) crossing guards, (4) speed zones and (5) traffic control measures around schools. These state policies not only prompted the creation of local ATS policies, but the study also found them to trigger increased walking and bicycling to school.
Other studies support these findings. For example, a safety analysis by the California Department of Transportation estimated that the childhood bicycle and pedestrian injury rate in areas with Safe Routes to School programs was significantly lower than the injury rate in areas without Safe Routes to School programs (Orenstein et al. 2007). The study also reported a generous increase in walking and bicycling to and from school.
As a final example, Pucher and his colleagues (2011) studied nine large cities by reviewing their trends in cycling levels, safety and policies over the past two decades. These nine states had implemented a wide range of policies, programs and infrastructure to promote cycling and increase cycling safety. Their findings indicated that these initiatives caused their bicycling rates to rise much faster than in their respective countries as a whole. Bicycling rates at least doubled in all the cities since 1990. The researchers highlighted Portland’s comprehensive package of bicycling policies as an example that other North American cities could follow.
The research seems to be revealing some important lessons about bicycle and pedestrian laws. Firstly, these laws have promoted active lifestyles. Secondly, these laws have helped decrease the rate of bike/ped-related injuries. And finally, laws – at least those related to Safe Routes to School – are not made to be broken.
So, Safe Routes to School advocates, use objective research findings such as those highlighted above to persuade your federal, state and local representatives that Safe Routes to School and its related policies do make a difference.
To access more research studies on this topic, click here.