Safe Routes to school is a great program that focuses on making commutes to k-12 schools nationawide more bikeable. The press release I have pasted below is related to the State of Maryland specifically. Please read it. It is short and there are a number of intereting concepts discussed.
The concept of a “holistic” view of transportation is an interesting one for me. As you may already know, Shuttle-UM has an annual ridership of 2.6 million riders. Many of the students who live within a reasonable biking shed also live near Shuttle-UM stops. Shuttle-UM is free and, incidentally, each shuttle has a bike rack on the front. However, buses are not without costs. Although riding buses greatly reduces a persons carbon footprint compared to driving a single occupancy vehicle, it is not zero emissions like a bike.
Furthermore, our campus is striving to support a healthy lifestyle through the Wellness Initiative, and biking fits that goal very well.
Hopefully biking will become a popular alternative that reduces the demand on buses during peak hours.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Jack Cahalan
Maryland Department of Transportation Asks, “What Are the Barriers to More Children Walking and Biking to School?”
MDOT Completes Statewide Survey Identifying Obstacles;
Develops Recommendations for Future
HANOVER, MD (March 3, 2011) – The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), working with partners in both the education community and the bicycle and pedestrian community, has completed the Maryland Statewide Student Travel Policy Survey. A primary goal of the survey released today is to provide State officials with an understanding of the policies and practices governing walking and biking at individual schools and within entire school systems. The survey identified a number of challenges that stand in the way of walking and biking to school and developed a series of recommendations to address those challenges.
“With obesity on the rise across our country, we need to create more opportunities for children to get exercise by safely walking or biking to school,” said Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley. “The value of this survey is that we now understand the obstacles across the state that may keep students from walking or biking to school. With this information, we can now work with principals and school districts on ways to improve sidewalks and other infrastructure, as well as develop policies that support walking and biking to school.”
The Maryland Statewide Travel Policy Survey (The Survey) reports that nationally only 16% of current students (ages5-18) walk or bike to school. At the same time, the U.S. Center for Disease Control reports that obesity among children aged 6 to 11 has tripled since the early 1980s from roughly 6 percent to more than 19 percent. The Survey suggest that it is important for the State to understand local school policies regarding walking or biking to school as this could be an untapped resource for increasing daily physical activity.
The Survey was done in cooperation with the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, the University of Maryland and the Maryland State Department of Education. The partners identified eight key issues that make it difficult for principals and superintendents to promote walking and biking. The issues are:
Principals seemed unaware of the State’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program. SRTS is a program administered by the State Highway Administration to improve sidewalks and pedestrian crossings in the vicinity of schools.
- Principals are concerned that students lack the skills needed to walk and bike safely.
- Principals noted that there are no safe pathways leading to the school (lack of sidewalks, traffic volume and speed, and poor crossing conditions for pedestrians).
- Some principals are concerned about liability issues.
- Schools with higher rates of free and reduced lunch are less likely to have received SRTS funds and to have active SRTS groups. Yet these schools are more likely to encourage walking and biking to school.
- Transportation departments of school districts focus on busing.
- Principals are overburdened with responsibilities.
- Schools are located in areas not conducive to walking or biking.
Based on the results of this project, partners involved in The Survey developed an extensive series of recommendations. Some of those recommendations include:
Increase outreach to principals and school districts to make them aware of existing programs and information already available on creating safer bike and pedestrian routes around schools.
- The State should continue to work with local schools and partner organizations to provide students with bike and pedestrian training.
- Schools should be required to develop route plans identifying the safest routes for children to walk or bike to and from school.
- Increase targeted law enforcement where appropriate.
- Urge school district transportation departments to adopt a holistic approach to school transportation including walking, bicycling and carpooling, as well as busing.
- Create incentives for principals to encourage walking and biking.
- Encourage any new schools be located in areas that are pedestrian and bike friendly.
The complete Maryland Statewide Student Travel Policy Survey can be found on the internet at: http://www.mdot.maryland.gov/Planning/Bicycle/Documents/School_Survey_Report.pdf. School officials interested in learning more about The Survey or about assistance that is available to improve pedestrian and bike access to schools should contact Michael Jackson, MDOT Director of Bicycle and Pedestrian Access, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 410-865-1237. The toll free number is 1-888-713-1414.
Increasing pedestrian and bike access to schools is consistent with Governor Martin O’Malley’s Smart, Green and Growing initiative. Introduced by Governor O’Malley in October 2008, the Smart, Green & Growing initiative was created to strengthen the state’s leadership role in fostering smarter, more sustainable growth and inspiring action among all Marylanders to achieve a more sustainable future. The initiative brings together state agencies, local governments, businesses and citizens to create more livable communities, improve transportation options, reduce the state’s carbon footprint, support resource based industry, invest in green technologies, preserve valuable resource lands and restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay.