The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School advocates for and implements programs that make walking and biking around Portland neighborhoods and schools fun, easy, safe and healthy for all students and families. The majority of the program’s funding comes from traffic-fine revenue, supplemented by state and federal grants.
Twice a year, Safe Routes to School surveys thousands of parents and guardians to learn how their children get to and from school. These surveys are required for the program’s federal grant funding and help staff gauge progress in making Portland a safer place for students to get around by foot or bike.
After mailing over 17,000 surveys this past fall covering 50 schools, Safe Routes to School has just released its annual school and program reports. The report displays how students get to and from school and includes comparisons to other schools.
Portland’s walk and bike to school rates are significantly higher than the national average. For the Safe Routes to School program over 32% of trips to school were on foot, compared to 11% nationally. Trips to school by bicycle were 10 times higher for the Portland Safe Routes to School program than the national average (10.3% compared to 1%). Additionally, the Safe Routes to School program has seen a steady increase in the number of students walking and bicycling to school, as the chart below shows.
Safe Routes to School currently works directly in 80 Portland schools. The work can include encouragement programs such as organizing a walking school bus, that brings different families together to walk to school safely, and engineering reports which help schools plan for better infrastructure like crosswalks and safer bicycling facilities.
Maplewood Elementary in Southwest Portland now has five different walking school buses meeting at various locations in the neighborhood. Safe Routes to School staff worked with Maplewood parents and administrators to help organize the walking school buses. Maplewood’s most recent survey showed 22% of students getting to school by walking, up from 15% when Safe Routes to School started its work there in 2009.
With help from Safe Routes to School staff, Beach Elementary in North Portlandhas developed a highly successful bike train, bringing families together to bike to school. Beach has also been one of the program’s most active schools, taking part in International Walk + Bike to School Day and Walk + Bike Challenge Month and including all 2nd and 5th graders in the Safe Routes to School comprehensive pedestrian and bicycling education curriculum. Our latest surveys show that walking and bicycling to school has grown from 40% of trips in 2009 to almost 60% in 2012.
Lewis Elementary in Southeast Portland includes many families that regularly walk and bicycle to school. In 2012, over 56% of parents that took the survey reported bicycling or walking as their family’s primary mode for accessing school. Last year, Safe Routes to School helped start a Stop + Walk program in partnership with the local Key Bank branch and built a covered bicycle parking shelter for students riding to school.
These are just a few examples of the work Safe Routes to School is doing in Portland schools and the dividends it’s paying for our students, neighborhoods, and communities. To learn more and get involved, visit the Safe Routes to School website.