Florida Safe Routes to School State Network
Florida is one of seven jurisdictions participating in the Safe Routes to School state network project (network project), funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Florida has been a network state since 2010. The network project's goal is to advance state-level policy reform, resulting in the award and obligation of federal transportation funds, street-scale improvements and joint-use agreements.
The Florida network's action plan can be viewed here. You can follow activities of the Florida Safe Routes to School state network in our blog section and on the state-specific website; this site features meeting announcements and local success stories.
To learn more about federal funding for Safe Routes to School, read through the Five Steps to Federal Funding: A Brief Explanation of the Safe Routes to School Program Process. You can find additional resources in our national learning network too.
Managed by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Florida’s federally-funded Safe Routes to School program is the source for state and district contact details, federal Safe Routes to School funding amounts, Safe Routes to School applications and guidelines, and state Safe Routes to School program information. Florida DOT has a decentralized Safe Routes to School program. Each district safety engineer works with either the district community traffic safety team coordinator or the district bicycle/pedestrian coordinator on non-infrastructure programs. Each district has the choice to solicit new program ideas, work with existing partners on new or expanded Safe Routes to School programs, plan district-wide programs or a combination of these approaches. Florida’s non-infrastructure programs can now be applied for at any time, as long as the district has uncommitted funds.
To see Florida’s Safe Routes to School federal funding, including total funding available, awarded and obligated to date, look at our State of the States quarterly tracking report.
From 2005 through 6/30/12, FDOT has reached an estimated 1,085 schools, awarded 235 applications and programmed around $68 million.
Visit the Florida Safe Routes to School program website for more information.
State Advisory Committee
As a large, decentralized agency, FDOT does not have an official Advisory Committee. The State SRTS Coordinator meets as needed with Safe Routes to School personnel from the seven districts to discuss all aspects of the Safe Routes to School program. The SRTS Coordinator and District personnel also stay in touch by e-mail, phone, video- or tele-conferences, and meetings in the Districts, and work together on any proposed modifications to the state program. The Safe Routes to School Network may also make recommendations to improve Florida’s Safe Routes to School program. In addition, the Florida DOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Partnership Council was established in April 2010. The Partnership Council provides policy recommendations on the state’s walking, bicycling and trail facilities and programs to the Florida DOT Secretary and transportation partners throughout Florida.
State Outreach Programs
Florida’s SRTS Coordinator works with many statewide agencies and groups that have goals similar to those of the Safe Routes to School program. Presentations on the Safe Routes to School program are provided at a variety of relevant statewide conferences and meetings, including the Community Traffic Safety Team Coalition. Coordination with the Florida Department of Education occurs to inform each school district about the Safe Routes to School program and application opportunities. In addition relevant materials purchased with statewide Safe Routes to School funds, such as the Walk Smart and Bike Smart interactive CDs for grades K-3, have been sent to school districts for use in Safe Routes to School educational programs. The SRTS Coordinator also works closely with Florida Department of Health on the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program. Under this program, thirteen regional coordinators work on three health issues, one of which is physical activity, through the formation and support of walking school buses. The Coordinator has served on the Safe Kids Advisory Council under the Florida Department of Health, and continues to work with local Safe Kids Coordinators on various projects.
The Florida Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Resource Center provides educational and promotional items statewide to Safe Routes to School and other pedestrian and bicycle programs. The Center is funded primarily with Traffic Safety funds, but additional materials are funded with Safe Routes to School funds to help with the implementation of the Safe Routes to School program statewide. Statewide Safe Routes to School funds have also been used to purchase Safe Routes to School educational and promotional items for the seven Districts to distribute to their local programs.
Statewide bids for bicycle racks, covered bicycle racks, bicycle trailers, bicycles, helmets, and promotional items have made it easier for the State SRTS Coordinator, District Safe Routes to School contacts or Safe Routes to School grant recipients to buy quality, low-cost equipment for Safe Routes to School programs. In 2010, using state Safe Routes to School funds, a number of bicycle trailers, bicycle sets for training, bike racks, helmets and promotional items were purchased for requesting District and local Safe Routes to School programs.
The State SRTS Coordinator and State Safety Engineer were trained in September 2007 to present the Safe Routes to School National Course at schools upon request, and they presented the first course to Florida State University Schools in April 2010. Although time and travel constraints have presented challenges to conducting this course, they hope that more courses can be held in the future.
In late 2008, the state SRTS Coordinator began e-mailing regular Safe Routes to School Updates, electronic newsletters containing information and web links related to state, national, and international Safe Routes to School news and training opportunities. There is so much information on Safe Routes to School and related programs, that this newsletter is a big help in keeping everyone abreast of developments and news. These Safe Routes to School updates are sent at least once a month to statewide contacts, including the seven Districts, who in turn send them to their local distribution lists. At the District level, the Safe Routes to School contacts disseminate information on Safe Routes to School through meetings, e-mail and other communications, to make sure that potential applicants and sponsors know about the Safe Routes to School program and application opportunities and processes.
Applicants for infrastructure projects are now required to conduct the student in-class travel tally and report the results to the National Center for Safe Routes to School. In addition, infrastructure applications require an estimate of how many children currently use the route proposed for improvement, and how many could use the route if the project is implemented. For funded projects, Florida requires before and after data using the National Center for Safe Routes to School’s student in-class travel tally and parent survey.
Florida already had two statewide programs that support Safe Routes to School, long before the federal Safe Routes to School program began. Both of the existing programs have been undergoing transitions and updates. Florida is also working with two new programs which support Safe Routes to School, through partnerships with other organizations.
The Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program (FTBSEP), based at the University of Florida, provides training courses for physical education teachers, as well as other teachers and youth leaders, on how to teach pedestrian and bicycle safety skills in school or other settings. This program is funded by FDOT Human Resource Development (HRD) funds, which pay for the state trainers’ time, travel and expenses. The courses are either free or available at a modest cost if regional trainers conduct or help with the training. Every school represented at a training course receives one curriculum set as part of the training. There is a modest cost for additional curriculum sets for teachers, and for all youth leaders. This program recently completed “Florida’s Safe Routes to School Elementary Traffic Safety Education Guide” which includes an introduction to Safe Routes to School; classroom, on-foot and on-bike lessons; 5th grade activities; adapted lessons for physically challenged students; enrichment activities; and a list of resources. To purchase this Guide and accompanying videos in CD/DVD format, contact the program coordinator, Dan Connaughton. The program also pilot tested the League Certified Instructor-2 Course, a national curriculum/training by the League of American Bicyclists, focusing on education programs for school teachers in pedestrian and bicycle safety education.
In the spring of 2009, Florida DOT’s District One Safe Routes to School contact completed a statewide bid for bicycles and bicycle trailers which can be purchased by Districts or Safe Routes to School grant recipients. The District provided a trailer, a set of bicycles and training materials to each interested county in the District, resulting in the purchase of twelve sets of equipment. Each trailer is decorated with a mural based on the winning design of a coloring contest, which depicts walking and bicycling bears. The District also hosted a series of FTBSEP train-the-trainer courses throughout southwest Florida, so the counties receiving the equipment would be ready to begin training when the equipment was received. This equipment is very popular and receives a lot of use, while helping to educate Florida’s youth on pedestrian and bicycle safety.
In addition, using state Safe Routes to School funds, 10 sets of bicycle trailers and bicycle sets for training, as well as numerous bike racks and helmets were ordered for requesting District and local Safe Routes to School programs.
- The Florida School Crossing Guard Training Program, funded through FDOT funds, trains local crossing guard trainers around the state, who in turn train their local crossing guards. There is no cost for the two-day training or the one-day refresher courses. However, hosting agencies usually pay a portion of the travel costs involved. The University of Florida administers this program as well, although the Crossing Guard Administrator is housed in the DOT Safety Office in Tallahassee so she can coordinate closely with the Safe Routes to School and Pedestrian/Bicycle Programs. Some overhead costs are absorbed by the Safety Office. Statewide Safe Routes to School funds have been used to completely update the Crossing Guard curriculum, to create a Crossing Guard website which can be used for local trainers and the Administrator to communicate, and a data base which is used to document the training of trainers and guards. Work was completed in 2010 on a new training DVD, and work is continuing to develop an online training course. The DVD is broken into short segments for ease of viewing. The online training course will eventually take the place of most of the classroom portion of the training course. Once prospective trainers pass the online course, they will be eligible to attend a one-day course which will consist of review, administrative discussions and practical training which trainers need to train their guards. Florida’s Crossing Guard Training Program was the first (and to date the only) statewide training course of its type in the U.S. See the public portions of the website and the Guidelines at: http://www.dot.state.fl.us/safety/ped_bike/training/ped_bike_training.shtm
In February 2010, Florida Department of Health received Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) funding to work on physical activity (walking school buses), nutrition (breast feeding) and tobacco cessation programs around Florida. Thirteen full-time regional coordinators located throughout Florida are spending a third of their time creating and supporting Walking School Buses, working with District and local Safe Routes to School contacts, Safe Kids Coalitions and other appropriate personnel and volunteers to implement this new program. Coordinators are also working with school districts and individual schools to encourage them to adopt policies which support Walking School Buses and Safe Routes to School programs. To learn more about this project, visit http://www.doh.state.fl.us/family/chronicdisease/CPPW or contact Emily Fritz at: Emily_Fritz@doh.state.fl.us or (850) 245-4444, ext. 3305.
Two additional CPPW Projects focusing efforts on walking and bicycling to school as ways to prevent obesity, increase physical activity and promote safety were recently funded. These projects are in Pinellas County/St. Petersburg, FL and Miami/Dade County.
As previously mentioned, Florida has created a Safe Routes to School Network which is broadening and deepening support for Safe Routes to School around Florida. This Network has further increased communications on Safe Routes to School in Florida, and Network members are working to improve policies which support Safe Routes to School in Florida.
If you would like to submit a success story for consideration, please email it to Carol Pulley.
Walk to School Month...Florida's Safe Feet in Action
Florida had 230 schools participate in Walk to School Month in October with even more walking in November. Nationally, there were 4,277 schools participating, which was an average of 86 schools per state.
Miami-Dade County, FL: WalkSafe program
The WalkSafe® and BikeSafe® programs under the direction of Dr. Gillian Hotz are injury prevention programs in the KiDZ Neuroscience Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. The WalkSafe program (2001), and the BikeSafe program (2009) were designed to address decreasing the number of children that are injured, increasing children's daily physical activity and education about pedestrian and bike safety. Both programs utilize a 5E model (Education, Engineering, Enforcement, Encouragement, and Evaluation) to improve safety, increase physical activity, and enhance walking/cycling environments. The cornerstone of both programs is the school-based, educational curriculum that uses a multimodal safety and health instruction program taught through a train-the-trainer model.
The WalkSafe educational curriculum is evidence-based, and mandated by the School Board to be taught in all Miami-Dade County public elementary schools reaching approximately 150,000 students each year. Currently, the curriculum is also reaching elementary school age children throughout several other counties including Broward, Lee, Orange, Palm Beach, Polk, and Volusia. Some of the other health promotional activities developed and implemented by WalkSafe, include Walking School Bus programs, Neighborhood Pedestrian/Speed Watch programs, and most recently a pedestrian safety programming for children with special needs. Since the inception of WalkSafe, the Miami-Dade County Level One Trauma Centers have observed a 70% decrease in child pedestrian-hit-by-car admissions and WalkSafe has been identified as a significant countermeasure for juvenile pedestrian-struck crashes by outside agencies.
The BikeSafe program curriculum is currently being implemented and continues to be evaluated in middle schools. BikeSafe also offers an afterschool curriculum, which has been implemented extensively for the past two years at Miami-Dade County Parks and Recreation Centers. This year, the program projects to reach more than 14,000 middle school students, providing them bike safety skills, knowledge, and abilities.
WalkSafe is currently funded by FDOT’s Safe Routes to School Program to conduct the following efforts:
- All Safe Routes to School-funded elementary schools include the implementation of the WalkSafe Pedestrian Safety Educational Curriculum (both for the general population and special needs).
- Some of the Safe Routes to School-funded elementary schools will be identified to include one or a combination of the following activities: (1) Weekly Walking School Bus events to raise awareness of active transportation through celebration of students and families that walk to school, (2) Neighborhood Pedestrian Watch program to decrease driver speeds in school zones during arrival and dismissal times through peer-to-peer education and increased presence of enforcement officers, and (3) Parent Safety Campaign to provide information, fun activities, interactive trainings to parents/guardians
- Selection of the school-specific activity has been done through analysis of Safe Routes to School Parent Survey data collected at the beginning of the school year.
- The National Walk to School Day will be organized at a Miami Dade County Elementary School on the National Walk to School Day in October 2013.
- Action Plans will be created for each school and will require: the completion of the 3-day in school WalkSafe curriculum prior to implementation of the encouragement activity; data acquisition (Safe Routes to School Student Travel Tallies and Safe Routes to School Parent Surveys); community meetings including the school community such as parents, school administrators, faculty and security and public works engineers to discuss pedestrian safety concerns around the school.
- The goal to developing school-specific Action Plans is to increase the numbers of children using active transportation at and from school, and to feature and make use of the Safe Routes to School infrastructural modifications completed at the various selected schools.
- BikeSafe’s 4 day off-bike curriculum will be implemented in 15 Miami Dade County Middle Schools during spring 2013.
- The BikeSafe curriculum contains an optional Day 5 on-bike lesson which includes bike rodeo stations and information on planning a group ride. Students are able to practice safe riding skills at stations and out on the road in a supervised ride.
- A bike to school day and bike rodeo event will be organized at a Miami-Dade County Middle School on National Bike to School Day in May 2013.
- The BikeSafe staff will work with school administration and other community partners on an ongoing basis to enhance the bikeability of the school environment. This is done by the BikeSafe staff in the form of bikeability audits, as well as parent surveys and student travel tallies provided by Safe Routes to School. In addition, parents are also provided with bike safety tip sheets along with the surveys to address concerns.
- The goal is to encourage more kids to bike to and from school by providing them with bike safety skills.
The program is supported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Volusia and Flagler Counties, Florida: Expanding Safety Education
The Volusia County School District in Florida used non-infrastructure funding to train Volusia and Flagler County teachers using the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education program. This training expanded the program to a total of seven elementary schools in Volusia and trained four new physical education teachers from Flagler County. This county partnership worked well, since Flagler County is a small county, which would have received only a small amount of funding if they had received stand-alone funding for a Safe Routes to School project.
For more information, contact Cookie Grafton at firstname.lastname@example.org or (386) 322-6100.
Polk County Schools Superintendent's Partnership Award
Julia Thillet, Polk County's SRTS Community Educator through All Children's Hospital was nominated this year for her efforts.
Each year, Polk County Schools gives the Superintendent’s Partnership Award to a partner at each school that has provided exemplary support for students, faculty and administration. Finalists at the elementary, secondary and district level are selected by the Superintendent. The Superintendent provides this recognition opportunity to schools in cooperation with Polk Education Foundation, Community Relations and Workforce Education.
This year, Julia Thillet, Polk County’s SRTS Community Educator through All Children’s Hospital, was nominated by Gregory Deal, Principal of North Lakeland Elementary School. Julia started working with Polk County Schools just this year and has already made a huge impact. This year alone, her efforts have resulted in:
- 4 new schools added to make a total of 14 schools affected by this program
- Provided bicycle and pedestrian safety education during PE classes
- 1 school participating in National Bike to School Day
- 4 schools complete parents surveys and teacher tallys
- 5 schools participated in Walk to School Day
- 10 school participated in educational curriculum, school as-semblies
- 1 pedestrian rodeo
District 3 - Tagging with Safety Graffiti
We have all dealt with what can be purchased that will serve as an incentive or reward yet still be useful after the first day it's handed out.
Stanley Rudd from District 3 came up with the perfect idea, one subject notebooks. His reasoning is pretty sound: Children keep what’s useful to them, and most of the time, they don’t keep pamphlets or brochures. At best they may give them to their parents. What we need to do is put something in a child’s hands that will stay there.
We give pencils to kids all the time with safety messages on them and although the pencils have a “sterile” or “government” look, they take them and use them because they are useful and needed. We changed to the “mood” pencils. They are “cool” so they ask for them. The problem with pencils is you can’t put much message on them and eventually, you sharpen the pencil past the message. The question then becomes, how do we make a pamphlet or brochure useful to a child and “cool” enough to keep? By using some basic marketing we can put those safety messages in our children’s hands and keep them there.
Notebooks with safety “graffiti” on the front cover! The safety messages are in the form of wall art or graffiti so that they are child friendly and have a “cool” appearance. The chil-dren receive the books by participating in the annual “Walk To School” day. Once in the hands of the child, every time the book is used that safety message will be seen, in some cases, several times a day, over a several month period of time. Repeatedly expose a child to those safety messages and they will become a part of the normal thought process of the child and when the opportunity arises they will apply that principle, thereby saving lives.
For more information, please contact Stanley.Rudd@dot.state.fl.us
Students Commit 2B Fit® through Safe Routes to School
A Safe Routes to School grant helped students in Broward County, Florida expand their Bicycle Safety Program and learn that safe walking and biking to school can be an excellent form of physical activity. Commit 2B Fit®, an award winning physical activity and nutrition program, was integrated into the Bicycle Safety training program with the use of the Commit 2B Fit® Walk Safe – Bike Safe Youth Journal. This journal is filled with safe walking and bicycling tips and information along with fitness and nutrition journaling that provides a complete experience for the user. The parents of each student involved in this project also received a Commit 2B Fit® Adult Journal so they could participate with their children in this walking and bicycling activity.
As the students learned about walking and bicycle safety, they logged their daily nutrition and physical activity goals in their Commit 2B Fit® journal. In the journal, the students take a pledge to Commit 2B Fit and when they do, they receive a special Walk Safe – Bike Safe affirmation charm that reminds them to choose walking and biking as an activity of choice. The students proudly wore the charm and necklace to show everyone of their commitment to walk and bicycle safely for physical activity.
Approximately ten times a year, Commit 2B Fit® places educational brochures in highly visible kiosks in Publix Supermarkets. With this project, two months of brochures with bicycle/walking safety information was placed in all Publix locations in Broward County as part of parent and community education.
Find out which organizations in your state have pledged their support for the Safe Routes to School movement. If your organization isn't yet a partner affiliate, we would love for you to join us; it's free! Find more info on joining here.
State Physical Education Requirements
In 2007, a law was passed requiring 150 minutes a week (or 30 minutes a day) of Physical Education for K-5th graders, and encouraging 225 minutes of PE a week (or 45 minutes a day) for 6-8th graders. This law is making it a little easier for the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program to be implemented during school hours so that more children will have the safe walking and bicycling skills needed to make Safe Routes to School programs successful.
Also supportive of the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program are the following Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (benchmarks) for pedestrian and bicycle skills, which were adopted in 2010 for physical education classes in Kindergarten through Grade 5 in Florida (s. 1003.41, F.S. –“Next Generation” Sunshine State Standards for Physical Education):
- K: Verbally state the search "look left, look right, look left again" used before crossing a roadway.
- 1: Identify edges, pedestrians, vehicles and traffic.
- 2: Identify the proper crossing sequence.
- 3: Differentiate between the correct and incorrect way to fit a bicycle helmet.
- 4: Discuss the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet.
- 5: Discuss the importance of being visible, being predictable and communicating when cycling.
School wellness policies are required to be developed by each School District and updated annually per Florida Statute 1003.453. Many of these policies also support Safe Routes to School programs. The CPPW Coordinators are working with school districts and individual schools to encourage them to adopt policies supportive of walking and biking to school. The Florida Department of Education has included links to Safe Routes to School resources and model policies on their webpage. For more information on Florida School Wellness Policies.
Safe Paths to Schools Program – Section 335.066, Florida Statutes
(1) There is established in the Department of Transportation the Safe Paths to Schools Program to consider the planning and construction of bicycle and pedestrian ways to provide Safe transportation for children from neighborhoods to schools, parks, and the state’s greenways and trails system.
This law was passed before the federal Safe Routes to School program was created, but the state program was not funded. FDOT Districts were instructed to work to meet the intent of the law using existing funding.
Conserve by Bicycle Program – Section 335.067, Florida Statutes
This statute creates the Conserve by Bicycle Program within the Department of Transportation. It encourages increased use of bicycles as a mode of transportation and support for the Safe Paths to Schools Programs
Florida Bicycle Helmet Statute Section 316.2065. Bicycle Regulation
A bicycle rider or passenger who is under 16 years of age must wear a properly fitted & fastened helmet that meets nationally recognized standards when riding a bicycle.
School Siting & Planning Coordination
The following statutes have been created to support school siting and planning coordination.
- School siting in land use plans
- Incorporates AASHTO and FDOT manuals by reference
Section 423, Florida Building Code
- Site design
- School transportation requirements, especially school buses and operations
- School bus operator training, licensure, and qualifications
- Student eligibility for service and state funding
- Safety instruction for parents and students. Example: “Are We There Yet?” flyer
- School educational program or activity;
- Any school-related or school-sponsored program or activity;
- School bus; or
- School computer system
Safe Neighborhoods Program -- Section 163.517, Florida Statutes
Statue 163-517 created the Safe Neighborhood program which provides planning grants and technical assistance on a 100-percent matching basis to the neighborhood improvement districts authorized by this part. For more information on application guidelines and to view the statute itself, click here.