Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs are typically collaborative efforts by parents, schools, and community members working together to provide safe environments for children to walk and bicycle to school. This is primarily accomplished through education and improved infrastructure such as sidewalks and street crossings, and often includes increased enforcement.
The primary goal of the program is to improve the health and well being of children by enabling and encouraging them to walk and bicycle to school. Studies have shown that students who receive daily exercise are more focused and tend to perform better in school. Other benefits from students walking or bicycling to school include less traffic congestion near schools, energy conservation, and instilling life-long habits.
SRTS became a nationally funded program in 2005, with dedicated funding distributed through a grant application process at the state level. Since 2005, Montana has received approximately $1 million per year for this program. School districts all across Montana have received funding to build trails and paths near schools, enhance street crossings, and provide educational programs to teach students how to be safe while walking and bicycling. View this interactive map for the projects that have been funded.
Under the new Federal Transportation Bill, MAP-21, which took effect October 2012, SRTS funding has been consolidated with the Transportation Enhancements program and Recreational Trails program under a new program called ‘Transportation Alternatives’. This means that SRTS no longer has dedicated funding. Instead, SRTS grants will be competing against other projects that also meet the Transportation Alternatives Programs. Other changes include: a statewide SRTS Coordinator is no longer required and there will no longer be a Federal SRTS Center to provide resources. Under MAP-21, it is incredibly important for schools and communities to learn what the new application process will be and to continue to submit applications. In 2014, with a new Federal Transportation plan under consideration, it will be vitally important to speak up for dedicated funding for SRTS.
Bike/Walk to School Day/Month
One of the most recognized events that schools are doing is to participate in the International Walk to School Day in early October. Many countries and communities have even extended this, celebrating the entire month of October as Walk to School Month. While a one-day event is a great way to increase awareness and encourage students to try walking to school, extending the program beyond just one day helps to instill a habit of doing so, bringing forth permanent change in communities.
On May 9, 2012 the first-ever National Bike to School Day happened, in coordination with National Bike Month. This is a parallel program to Walk to School Day and another tool to encourage students to try an active way to get to school.
Many schools have started walking school buses or bicycle trains to create safe environments for students to walk or bicycle to school. This begins with an adult volunteer walking (or bicycling) a specific route and picking up students at specific stops along the way, who then all continue to walk to school together. For more information…
- Montana Guidebook
- Montana SRTS
- National Safe Routes to School Center
- iWalk – International Walk to School in the USA