Autumn’s colors are seen with the return of fall winds which prompt us to pull our sweaters out of drawers and builds excitement for warm apple cider. As we adjust our seasonal routines, we must be sure we take note of returning student walkers and bikers during our daily routes. Safe Routes to School supports communities across Michigan to foster a culture of active and safe walking and biking among students. Achieving a more pedestrian/bicycle friendly environment for young people is no small task given that the percentage of students actively traveling to school has dramatically decline from 49 percent in 2016 to 13 percent in 2009 (U.S. Dot, 2009). However, we need to find ways to be supportive of students actively getting to school because it helps students develop a better sense of direction, connects them to their community, increases academic performance, and builds confidence and social skills. Here are some helpful practices when driving, dropping-off, and preparing students for school which make walking and biking a more safe and easy choice for students.
- PASS at least 3 feet away from students. You may encourage students on the side of the road since some student routes do not have sidewalks. Give them a safe space as you pass.
- OBEY crossing guards’ instructions and signs. Guards work hard to keep students safe and regulate traffic. Be patient as they help students safely across intersections.
- REDUCE your speed when in a school zone. Check to ensure you’re traveling at 25mph or less to minimize the risk of collisions.
- ELIMINATE distracting food and phones when driving by putting them in the back seat or out of sight.
- UNLOAD your students where the school describes. Unloading at undesignated areas may force students to dangerously cross a street mid-block where drivers may not expect or anticipate.
- PARK in sanctioned areas. Double parking may block the visibility for students and other cars. Plus, it can slow things down causing more congestion and traffic.
- CARPOOL to school. Creating or continuing a carpool reduces air pollution and the amount of traffic along student travel routes. Plan with other families and take turns taking the students.
- ESTABLISH a route. Identify a safe, well-lit, populated route for your student’s journey to school. Go over “Safe haven” public places and businesses students can go for help if needed.
- START a walking school bus or bike train. Have fellow parent volunteers or mentors supervise the pick-up of students along a route just like a school bus. Learn how to develop one here.
- DRESS for the weather. Safe Routes can continue into the winter if you make sure students have the right clothing to travel safely in rain or snow. Work with the school to provide supplies for students who need assistance getting these items due to financial constraints.