Packaging the Travel Choices : SCHOOLS
Safe Routes to School
Overview and Objectives
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a road safety program that focuses on travel to and from school. The targeting of school travel is an initiative designed to reduce children's involvement in road accidents. In Australia, the SRTS programs tend to be delivered by a state road authority in conjunction with local government, the school community and the police.
The key objectives of SRTS are:
- To improve the level of safety for children travelling to school
- To encourage active travel to school using identified safe routes
Achieving these objectives requires investigation into road safety issues that exist around each individual school. A combination of engineering treatments, education, enforcement and encouragement strategies may then be developed, implemented, monitored and evaluated for that school. According to individual state objectives, the balance of these strategies will vary.
Safe Routes to School- Program Features
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs have existed in most states for a number of years. These programs were developed to respond to road safety issues and are usually conducted independently of any TravelSmart initiative. Reflecting the road safety emphasis, in some states, SRTS programs are only offered to schools where there is a demonstrated road safety.
It is important for TravelSmart officers to have some understanding of what is involved in SRTS programs because they can lay very valuable foundations for building very effective TravelSmart Schools initiatives.
SRTS can be considered to be the initial step to help create safer environments for walking and cycling. This can ensure that safe conditions exist prior to the implementation of active transport experiences for students, teachers and parents. Installation of infrastructure, correct usage and road safety education must be completed before considering programs such as Walking School Bus or Ride/Walk to School days
SRTS programs generally involve four main stages:
- Planning and establishing the program
Selecting schools for involvement and establishing links with the municipality and schools concerned.
- Investigation of local issues and needs
Establish the routes used by children to access the school. This is often done through a travel survey and conducting observation surveys to examine behaviour patterns.
- Developing and implementing an Action Plan
Action Plans may comprise Engineering, Education, Enforcement and Encouragement dimensions. These are known as the 4 'E's.
- Maintaining, monitoring and evaluating the program.
This final stage is essential to the sustainability of SRTS and the introduction of other TravelSmart programs into the school community.
Developing an action plan is a central part of SRTS programs. Differences exist between states in terms of the balance of elements covered by the Action Plan, that is, whether all the 4 E's are included. For example, Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria include engineering treatments as an important feature of the action plan. However, the NSW program is a three-element action plan with a focus on Road Safety Behaviour, Encouragement and Enforcement.
The engineering treatments include signage and new crossings, pedestrian refuge islands, speed humps, and reviews of parking signage, construction of pick up/drop off points, fencing and curb extensions. Examples of Signage include 'Stop, Look, Listen and Think'. These signs are placed at recommended crossing points at school gates, footpaths and recommended crossing points.
The education component is in addition to the normal road safety education curriculum and involves taking children on-site after completion of the engineering treatments for on-road practice in the use of these new treatments.
The encouragement and enforcement dimensions could involve targeted campaigns to reduce speeding in the area of the school or programs aimed at parent behaviour (eg. reducing the incidence of parents calling children across the road to the car when being picked up rather than using a designated crossing). Encouragement could focus on promoting safe walking and cycling to school and this is potentially an area where the local TravelSmart officer can play a role.
Safe Routes to School - Implementation Issues
A variety of implementation issues are of relevance to SRTS programs:
- When should it be introduced?
- State Variations
- Managing expectations
- What else is running in the local area?
- Maintenance of the Program
The optimum time to introduce SRTS is prior to any other TravelSmart Schools programs. The benefits of that timing are numerous:
- Established maximum communication with key stakeholders (Local Council Departments, Teachers, School Council, Community, Police, State Road Authority, TravelSmart Officers) for the action plan to be implemented
- Opportunities to build Long Term Relationships with key stake holders at each phase of program including ongoing maintenance.
- SRTS will ensure correct physical and education structures exist within and around the individual school environment
- May simplify what needs to be done to manage risks to children when other TravelSmart Schools programs are introduced, particularly Walking School Buses.
State Variations exist in the balance of actions that can be taken with SRTS. Before discussing this program with schools, it is essential that you know what actions can be offered. What is practical and feasible in the area where the school is located will need to be established through the following channels:
- Liaison and communication with key staff in Infrastructure and planning departments with the your local council and state road authority.
- Liaison and communication with key education consultants / coordinators within the relevant state road authority. While SRTS is run as a local government program in West Australia (under the RoadWise name), in all other states it is delivered by a state government authority.
Remember that in some states there needs to be a demonstrated road safety problem in the area surrounding the school before the school would qualify for involvement in the SRTS program.
Managing Expectations can be difficult at not only the school and community level but also within the TravelSmart internal network. The program timeframes require careful explanation to avoid issues with the school and community. Internal expectations regarding what actions are feasible require appropriate knowledge of communication paths. This is important to ensure effective prioritising of the TravelSmart Officer's involvement, particularly relating to providing justifications for suggested actions.
You may find that people expect the engineering treatments will be installed the week after the travel surveys are completed. Time frames for SRTS may be up to 3 years with installation of engineering treatments coming 12 to 18 months after the initiation of the program because of the need to link into state and local government capital works budgeting processes. It is important to highlight issues like this to the school and community at the beginning to ensure realistic expectations regarding program delivery timing.
Discussing the demands and limitations of planning and infrastructure departments with a key linking person is important. Identifying someone with good knowledge of internal areas may help you to understand appropriate communication approaches that will facilitate constructive relationship building between the departments.
Knowing what else is happening in the local area is essential. TravelSmart Communities or Workplaces may also be planned, setting up or operating in the area. You may or may not be directly involved with these programs but issues can arise so awareness is essential.
- Use the TravelSmart network to find out what is or has happened in your area.
- Knowledge of household and workplace audits and evaluations is important as the school, households or community may already think they have provided information you are requesting.
- Remember a school is a workplace too and may have already been contacted about TravelSmart. It is important that you can distinguish what they may be referring to because they may be confused about different TravelSmart initiatives.
Maintenance of SRTS actions is of vital importance to the programs success and has implications for the acceptance of other TravelSmart programs. It is important that regular checking of installations and direct contact happens to ensure sustainability. This should be a priority for any TravelSmart officer.
- If signage deteriorates or is vandalized it looses effectiveness. Identifying and reporting findings to the relevant council and informing schools of this action indicates a commitment to the school.
- Regular follow-up to the school continues and builds on the existing relationships. It also helps to identify changes in staff and school culture.
- Feedback on the program allows you to address issues before they become problems. Individual schools will present with individual situations. Acknowledging that adjustments are required can then be an opportunity to tailor action rather than an ongoing annoyance for the school. e.g. location of signage may need to be reviewed over time.
- When following up with the school it may also be appropriate to explore other opportunities for TravelSmart involvement.