Safe Routes to School
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a federal program to improve the well-being of children by improving walking and bicycling conditions on the route to school and enabling and encouraging children to walk and bike these routes.
With over 140,000 diverse people living in a compact city (about 15 square miles), Alexandria provides an ideal environment for walking and bicycling since so many families live close to their neighborhood elementary schools. Alexandria has had a formal Safe Routes to School program since 2003 when we participated in our first annual International Walk to School Day and the City has been ensuring pedestrian safety near schools for many years.
Alexandria’s local Safe Routes to School (SRTS) efforts – made possible by grants from VDOT, the Kaiser Foundation and city Capital Improvement Project funds – include:
- On-the-ground safety improvements at schools including new sidewalks, crossing improvements, speed limit reductions, bicycle parking and bicycle lanes
- Partnering with the Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA), and Trails for Youth to provide in-school pedestrian and bicycle safety lessons for students
- School walking maps provided for any K-8 school that commits to SRTS efforts
- Evaluation of students’ walking and bicycling habits, including surveys of teachers conducted by the Alexandria City Public School System (ACPS)
- Working with school administrators, parents and PTAs to promote fitness and safety opportunities for Alexandria children by participating in Walk & Bike to School Day
SAFE ROUTES TO SCHOOL - WALK AUDIT
Alexandria has begun safe routes to school walk audits for all of its elementary schools in the 2016-2017 school year.
What is a Walk Audit?
A walk audit is an evaluation of walking and biking infrastructure conditions approximately within ¼ mile radius of a given Alexandria City Public School (ACPS) school. Walk audits are performed during either the time of arrival or dismissal of students and help to assess the condition of sidewalks, crosswalks, signs, and behavior of students, parents and commuters that use the corridors used by students to get to school. One objective of a walk audit is to identify and document factors that hinder students from walking or bicycling to school. Some of these hindrances include, but are not limited to the width of sidewalks, volume of traffic, street signs and lighting, availability of bicycle lanes and topography.
Who is involved in the Walk Audit?
A walk audit is performed by a multidisciplinary group to examine conditions. This group includes trained professionals, engineers, planners, pedestrian and bicycle specialists, school administration, volunteers and parents.
What is the purpose of a Walk Audit?
The purpose of a walk audit is to identify and record concerns for students as they walk or bike to school. Information recorded from the audit will be used to inform and prioritize future infrastructure improvement plans through the Complete Streets program. Improvements may include curb extensions, traffic calming, crossings, or better wayfinding to schools along accessible routes. Programmatic recommendations to increase safe walking and biking to schools will also be included in the final reports and will be considered for implementation by ACPS.
- Charles Barrett Elementary School
- Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology
- Douglas MacArthur Elementary School
- George Mason Elementary School
- James K. Polk Elementary School (Pilot)
- Jefferson-Houston School
- John Adams Elementary School
- Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy
- Matthew Maury Elementary School
- Mount Vernon Community School
- Patrick Henry Elementary School
- Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School
- William Ramsay Elementary School
City of Alexandria is currently designing pedestrian and intersection improvements which include; pedestrian signals, push buttons, high visibility crosswalks, and ADA ramps. The construction is anticipated to begin in Spring 2017. These proposed improvements are located at the following locations:
- Beauregard Street and Morgan Avenue (Ramsey Elementary School)
- North Jordan Street and North Howard Street (Polk Elementary School)
- Russell Road, High Street, and Monroe Avenue (Maury Elementary School)
- Mt. Vernon Avenue, Commonwealth, and Hume Street (Mt. Vernon Elementary School)
- Polk Elementary School - COMPLETE
- Cora Kelly Safe Routes to School project - COMPLETE
- George Mason Elementary Safe Routes to School - COMPLETE
PROGRAMS IN ALEXANDRIA SCHOOLS
ACPS surveys are showing that more students are walking and bicycling to school than ever before. In its recent Transportation Survey of Parents the ACPS found that 52% of parents say their children walk at least some of the time and 5% of parents report that students bicycle some of the time. Additional survey data is available and the City and ACPS are continually evaluating the effectiveness of SRTS programs.
Charles Barrett Elementary: Parents participate in weekly Walking Wednesday programs where families walk together – often via “Walking School Buses” led by one or more parents who “pick up” other neighborhood kids on the way to school, similar to a regular school bus. The school provides incentives for students who walk often and holds bicycle safety rodeos for 4th and 5th graders.
George Mason Elementary: The school holds bicycle safety rodeos with WABA and encourages students to walk or bicycle several times a week by providing prizes and punch cards for “frequent walkers.” The school is strongly pursuing efforts that encourage sustainable living and recently participated in Environmental Education Week.
James K. Polk Elementary: This school’s Fitness Friday effort has been a huge hit with parents and students and now Polk is one of nine schools in the entire U.S. to pilot a new children’s pedestrian safety education curriculum through the National Center for Safe Routes to School.
Francis Hammond Middle: The school has been teaching all sixth and seventh grade physical education students a three-week course on bicycle safety. The school has 33 bicycles and helmets and federal Safe Routes to School funding has allowed Hammond to purchase a video camera and helmet camera to assist in bicycle safety education.
Mount Vernon Elementary School: With strong support from the administration and PTA, this school received a Kaiser Foundation grant to work with Trails for Youth to educate and encourage students about walking and bicycling to school. More than 32% of students at Mount Vernon walk to school and almost 3% bike to school regularly.
SCHOOL WALKING MAPS
As part of its Virginia Dept of Transportation Safe Routes to School “Program” grant, the City worked with participating schools to create School Walking Maps.
The maps show locations of existing sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic signals and crossing guards and include the school’s attendance boundary – as well as radii showing where families live with 5- and 10-minute walks of each school. The printed maps also include safety and encouragement tips for families interested in Safe Routes to School.
See your school’s walking map:
Charles Barrett Elementary
George Mason Elementary
Matthew Maury Elementary
Mount Vernon Elementary
James Polk Elementary
Samuel Tucker Elementary
Francis Hammond Middle School
George Washington Middle School
INFRASTRUCTURE & ON-THE-GROUND PROJECTS IN ALEXANDRIA
- Pedestrian safety improvements at Charles Barrett Elementary School (complete)
- Speed cushions, median island, and crosswalk improvements at Maury Elementary School (complete)
- Pedestrian countdown timers and curb ramps at Hammond Middle School (complete)
- Bicycle lanes near George Mason, MacArthur and Mount Vernon Elementary Schools (complete)
- A median refuge, signal improvements and new, accessible pedestrian signals at Mount Vernon (complete)
- Sidewalk concept development and alternatives for Cambridge Drive near MacArthur Elementary (complete)
- Intersection reconstruction at Monticello Avenue and Cameron Mills Road near George Mason Elementary (complete)
- Intersection reconstruction at Reed Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue near Cora Kelly Elementary (complete)
- Median islands, sidewalk and crosswalks on Polk Avenue at Polk Elementary (complete)
- Curb extensions and high-visibility crosswalks at various locations