Saturday, December 26, 2009

New Safe Routes to School Report

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership recently released the report Safe Routes to School: Putting Traffic Safety First; How Safe Routes to School Initiatives Protect Children Walking and Bicycling. As Fairfax County works toward making the county safer for kids to walk and bike to school, they can learn from the report which has many examples of how the SRTS program has improved safety.

When some people ask why should the community spend money on bike facilities when so few people current use bikes for transportation, it's important to remember that "In more recent years, bicycle sales have passed new automobile sales in the United States by nearly 1.7 million annually, and more than 70 percent of all children age five to 14 ride a bicycle." Most kids own bikes but rarely use them for a number of reasons. Bicycle education is almost non-existent in the schools. Bike routes to many schools are not safe, especially for untrained, young bike riders.

The Safe Routes to School program addresses these issues and many others with the five E's; Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Engineering, and Evaluation. The new report contains profiles of five communities where the SRTS program has made walking and biking conditions safer for kids.

With help from the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, bike crashes in that state have been reduced: "An analysis comparing bicycle crash rates for the eight years before the Bicycle Safety Education Program was implemented (1992 to 1999) with the first eight years the program has been offered (2000-2007) reveals a 51 percent drop in bicycle crashes for children aged 10-14."

It's time for Fairfax County to make better use of the Safe Routes to School program. To date they've received less than 1% of Virginia SRTS funds, money that could be used for education, new facilities, traffic calming, and other measures.



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