Background
There’s growing interest in encouraging walking and bicycling to school in Wake County and across North Carolina for the health, social, academic, and other benefits. Currently, only 4% of NC students walk or bike to school at least once per week, and 58% of K-5 students are not getting the physical activity they need. At the same time, in Wake County, pedestrian injuries are the third leading cause of death for children under 18 years.

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs are an evidence-based approach to address safety concerns and provide more opportunities for children to walk and bike to school or at school. The Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) joined with the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center (UNC-HSRC) and other partners to work with five elementary and/or middle schools to improve child pedestrian safety and support walking and/or bicycling to school. The program also involves working with municipalities to examine policies that can improve safety for child pedestrians and disseminating findings from the five “partner” schools so that other WCPSS schools can consider similar actions.

To learn more about Safe Routes to School programs in NC, visit the North Carolina Safe Routes to School Program and the North Carolina Active Routes to School Project. For information about planning and conducting Safe Routes to School programs, visit the National Center for Safe Routes to School.

Partner Schools

Timeline
September 2015: the five partner schools are announced and each school forms a SRTS task force to begin work on the action plans.

Winter 2015 – Spring 2016: the physical environment around the school is inventoried and the project team attends school events to talk with families, school staff, and neighbors about draft recommendations for infrastructure projects and programs.

Summer 2016: SRTS action plan are finalized for each school and grant-supported implementation begins.

Fall 2016 – Winter 2018: ongoing implementation of plan recommendations at each of the five schools. Activities will vary by school, but they will include elements of the “6 Es”:

  • Engagement: Participating in outreach to parents, PTAs, and school staff during the SRTS plan development.
  • Education: Teaching pedestrian safety education using the Division of Public Instruction-endorsed Let’s Go NC! lesson plans.
  • Engineering and Enforcement: Participating in meetings and walkabouts led by UNC-HSRC and partners to coordinate with municipal staff and police departments to identify infrastructure and enforcement needs on and around the school campus.
  • Encouragement: Implementing encouragement activities such as remote drop-off programs, walking school buses, International Walk to School Day, etc.
  • Evaluation: Collecting information about student travel modes and parent attitudes on a bi-annual basis using standardized forms that have been used by more than 12,000 US schools.

Program Funding and Partners
The program is funded by a grant provided to UNC-HSRC by the John Rex Endowment. Program partners, in addition to WCPSS, include the Wake County PTA, North Carolina Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School program, Active Routes to School Project Region 5, Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and member municipal agencies, Advocates for Health in Action, and WakeUP Wake County.