Seven communities in the RPC region have established Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs. These include Hampton, Newfields, Newton, Plaistow, Portsmouth, Rye, and Seabrook. The goals of Safe Routes to School programs are to encourage more kids in grades K-8 to walk or bicycle to school, and to ensure that they can do so safely.
In the 1960s over 60% of American children walked or rode bicycles to school. Today that numbers is closer to 13%. The decline in walking and biking to school has corresponded with the growing trend toward childhood obesity, as well as increased traffic congestion and declining safety for people walking or bicycling. Reasons include more dispersed development such that schools and subdivisions are more likely to be built on the fringes of town outside comfortable walking distance; roads that have been built only with cars in mind and not pedestrian or bicycle safety, busier family schedules, and parent concerns over faster traffic, distracted driving, and bullying.
While the program title references “routes” SRTS programs use a multi-pronged approach known as “the 5Es” – Engineering (infrastructure improvements), as well as Education, Encouragement, Enforcement and Evaluation.
RPC staff have assisted multiple communities with initiating SRTS efforts, securing SRTS start-up or travel planning grants from NHDOT, and developing SRTS Travel Plans. While there is no longer a stand-alone pool of SRTS grant funding, school zone safety projects remain a high priority for Transportation Improvement Program (TAP) funds, and staff are available to assist member communities with developing SRTS efforts.
For more information visit the National Center for Safe Routes to School: www.saferoutesinfo.org/