Long-term Safe Routes to School programs should kick-off with a thorough evaluation of the situation at the school or district. Armed with an accurate snapshot of the realities of student perception, concerns of parents, assessment of the physical environment around the school and a scan of the policies that may or may not support walking and bicycling. Advocates can begin to create a school travel plan that will best suit the individual needs of their unique situation.
There are numerous methods for quickly collecting this information. Surveys of parents help to reveal why parents are driving their children to school instead of allowing them to walk or bicycle, and will provide insight into what changes might encourage a shift in their behavior. Student surveys elicit the attitudes of the youth, and help demonstrate how to craft a program that will be appealing to the younger generation.
It’s also important to know, before Safe Routes to School interventions begin, what percentages of students are walking, biking, taking the bus, being driven alone, and carpooling to school. Taking this baseline measurement will help you gauge the effects of the program on student travel choices. Student in-class travel tallies, including a record of the weather and time of year, should be taken throughout several days in September and May of each school year.
Evaluation data is key to determining the scope and the success of a Safe Routes to School program. The tools mentioned above are a great starting point to understanding travel choices at your school or district and provide the understanding and foundation for an effective, targeted Safe Routes to School program.
For more information on collecting local Safe Routes to School data, visit www.saferoutesinfo.org/data.