Head back to school with Safe Routes, School Pools and Metro

Photo: East Bay Bicycle Coalition via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: East Bay Bicycle Coalition via Flickr Creative Commons

Do your kids walk or ride their bikes to school?

More than 50% of kids in Los Angeles County are driven to school in private vehicles, despite the fact that the majority of students live within 2 miles of their schools. Parents have cited different reasons for why they chose driving over other options, one being traffic safety: They just don’t think it’s safe for their children to walk or bike to school. However, walking and bicycling are an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle, and being able to start their day with a little physical activity greatly benefits children in many ways.

With this in mind, Metro has recently launched the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Pilot Program that will help schools, parents and students develop safe and active travel options. Ten schools within L.A. County have been selected to participate in this SRTS Pilot Program, and Metro is planning workshops and activities with the chosen schools and local communities. SRTS programs exist throughout the nation, and individual programs can be tailored to meet the specific needs of a school, community or city.

As part of the program, Metro will help train walk leaders and provide opportunities for kids to learn about pedestrian, bicycle and public transit safety. Metro will also work to make walking and biking to school a positive experience for kids by helping the schools implement Walk/Bike to School Days, hold community and school events and work with schools to develop pedestrian and bicycle travel plans.

The end goal of SRTS is to create an environment where children can get active while getting to school safely. In addition, by encouraging kids to walk or bike to school, SRTS hopes to reduce congestion related to school travel, which will also benefit traffic and air quality in local neighborhoods.

The pilot program is part of a larger effort by Metro, in partnership with the Southern California Association of Governments, to develop a Countywide Safe Routes to School Strategic Plan, which will identify strategies to help cities and local communities establish new SRTS programs. In places where these programs already exist, the strategic plan explores how existing SRTS programs can be sustained and enhanced. For more information, visit metro.net/srts.

If driving is still the best travel option, try carpooling. Metro School Pool alleviates traffic at schools by providing a free, voluntary and confidential service that helps parents find carpooling partners at participating elementary, middle and high school campuses throughout Los Angeles County. The carpool directory  also helps parents find other parents who are interested in having their students who walk or bike to school together. For schools not currently in the carpool directory program but interested in joining, it’s easy to sign up – have your school administrator fill out a Metro Carpool Directory Enrollment Form.

Then there’s the transit option. K – 12 students can acquire a Student TAP Card to ride Metro to school at reduced rates. Frequent riders will benefit from the Student 30-day Pass. And getting a Student TAP Card is free!

3 replies

  1. Thanks for posting, very informative. I’ve noticed other cities across the country develop “Safe Routes,” but this program is much more inclusive.

  2. Use terms like “Walking School Bus” and “Bike Train”. These provide a way for people to think about the concept. By giving people a simple term, it helps them to think about the concept. Before the term ‘designated driver’ was promoted, people rarely gave the idea a thought. They could have, but they didn’t. The promotion of the term gave people a way to think about the idea. Walking school bus and bike train give people a way to think about the concept of ‘a large group always walking to school together at the same time’ and ‘a bunch of cyclists going to the same place as a group, with people joining in as the group passes them’. Using funky acronyms is less helpful.