‘Safe Routes to School’ Offers Opportunities to Montgomery County Residents and Schools to Improve Pedestrian Safety Around Schools

by Patrick Herron

Safe Routes To School is a nationally recognized program that aims to significantly improve safety for students who walk and bike to school. In Montgomery County, the SRTS program also combines a safer roads component to slow down drivers and build new pedestrian and bicycle safety treatments such as new crosswalks, and bump-outs at an intersection and add stop or yield signs

“As a former teacher, I understand the importance of and fully support the County’s commitment to ensuring the safety of our students,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “As part of our Vision Zero efforts, we will continue to invest in sidewalks, bike paths and public safety staffing surrounding our schools. ​Our most recent budget reflects the County’s commitment, with the highest amount ever allocated toward making walks to school safer. We want to encourage our students who live close enough to be able to safely walk or bike to school by providing them with the necessary infrastructure and resources to keep them safe.”

MCDOT is completing walkability studies through the pedestrian road safety audit program to review the sidewalk and crosswalk conditions surrounding schools. For each school, these studies identify structural improvements including curb extensions, sidewalks, enhanced crosswalks, and the installation of traffic signs and signals.

The accompanying educational effort teaches elementary students how to use new infrastructure and traffic rules. It also encourages walking and biking by raising awareness of health and environmental benefits.

Free event participation and resources include:

  • Walk to School Day: This internationally recognized event will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 12. The MCDOT outreach team will be at Wheaton Woods Elementary School to promote biking and pedestrian safety and encourages all students who have a safe path and live near their school to walk to school on this date. Find information on setting up a Walk to School Day event at your school here.
  • Walking Wednesdays: Every Wednesday during the school year, the SRTS team is available to visit schools and encourage students to walk and bike safely, distribute education materials and safety giveaways. Educators can register their school to participate in a Walking Wednesday event here.
  • Bike Rodeos: The in-person bike clinic includes hands-on bike safety instruction, a discussion about the rules of the road and bike safety tips including the proper fitting and importance of wearing a bike helmet. Learn more here.
  • Community Events: SRTS outreach efforts include attending school and community events to educate children and families about pedestrian and bike safety. A request for MCDOT to attend an event can be made here.
  • Walking School Bus: This parent-organized effort shares responsibilities with other adults to supervise a group of kids walking to and from school. Each “bus” walks along a set route, with one or more adults leading a group of children. A guide with detailed information on how to start a walking school bus is available here.

“This past year, we built nearly six miles of County sidewalks and engaged over 40,000 residents through our pedestrian safety programs,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “We also made pedestrian improvements at several schools in response to walkshed assessments. It is important that our youth learn how to use new infrastructure and best practices for safety at an early age. We hope to encourage the adoption of walking, biking and using transit as primary ways to get around the County and that these choices will continue as our students become young adults.  However, some of these students will also become drivers one day, and we hope to influence their behavior by highlighting the need to be careful drivers who recognize their responsibility for the safety of themselves and everyone else using our roads. Safety requires everyone to exercise caution and look out for one another.”

All Safe Routes to School program resources are free and community participation is encouraged. Students, parents and schools are encouraged to start an SRTS program at their schools. Educators can fill out a request form for their school.

For more information on MCDOT programs and services visit montgomerycountymd.gov/mcdot, follow @MCDOTNow on TwitterFacebook and Instagram and subscribe to MCDOT’s “Go Montgomery!” newsletter.

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