In 2012, the UMVRDC led the elementary schools in Appleton, Benson, Dawson, Granite Falls and Madison through a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) planning process to develop plans with the goal of encouraging students to walk and bike to school.
The plans highlight where it is already safe to walk/bike to school and where further work needs to be done to increase safety. All plans included recommendations in the areas of the “5 E’s” of comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian planning. The plans for all five schools can be found here.
Members of the SRTS Teams consisted of local law enforcement, parents, city officials, school principals, teachers, city and/or county engineers and other interested community members. The diverse teams were critical to the SRTS planning process and the team members continue to bring diverse knowledge and strengths to implement recommendations outlined in each plan. Although all of the SRTS Teams were excited for the implementation of the SRTS plans, they all expressed a need for the UMVRDC to help them get started implementing the recommendations outlined in the plans. To assist these schools with SRTS implementation, the UMVRDC, with the help of the schools, wrote a Safe Routes to School non-infrastructure implementation grant to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) for Federal Highway (FHWA) SRTS funding. This grant allowed the UMVRDC to help the schools organize one SRTS event and develop one SRTS program. The UMVRDC has been working with the schools since the fall of 2013 to plan SRTS educational and encouragement events and programs with the goal of ultimately increasing the number of students walking and biking to school safely.
In May, all five of the schools participated in International Walk/Bike to School Day. These events are designed to promote the benefits of walking and biking to school , which include increased exercise, fewer car trips and congestion around the school, increased alertness during the school day, and overall fun for the students. Students that live outside city limits and ride the school bus were brought to a remote drop off location within each city—often a park or a church parking lot—and then all the students walked or biked to school together. Parents, friends, and neighbors were all encouraged to participate in these events with the students.
All of the Walk/Bike to School Day events were successful and everyone involved enjoyed themselves. Moving forward, the UMVRDC will continue to assist the schools with the implementation of a SRTS program. Some of the programs include tracking mileage, the redesign of a school parking lot, and a sidewalk survey. We are looking forward to assist in implementing these programs and encouraging all of the schools to continue celebrating and encouraging walking and biking to school.
For more information regarding the Safe Routes to School Program contact Lindsey Knutson, UMVRDC Transportation/Community Development Planner at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 320-289-1981 extension 107.