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Creating Safer Routes to School


Ryn McCoy
Creating Safer Routes to School

By the City of Portland’s Crime Prevention Program

Lea esta nota en español.

What are the transportation barriers for school-age kids to get to school? This question drives much of the work of the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program managed by the City of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation. With input from parents, teachers, school administrators and the community, program coordinators identify potential routes for kids to bike, walk and roll to over 100 schools throughout the city. When it comes to personal safety and other concerns along the route, getting neighbors involved and teaching kids street safety skills can improve their overall experience.

Since 2005, SRTS has contributed to a 35% increase in walking and biking to Portland schools. The program aims to encourage kids to engage in physical activity, increase safety and reduce traffic congestion and pollution.

Kids’ interest in biking, walking and rolling is often stoked by education, events and incentives offered by SRTS. Coordinators assist parents, students, school staff and community in organizing and participating in events such as International Walk and Roll to School Day in October, and May’s Walk and Roll Challenge Month. SRTS also partners with The Street Trust to teach pedestrian and bicycle safety education in schools

The SRTS program works to address traffic-safety issues around schools. Safe Routes to School traffic engineers work with schools and the City to make improvements to streets, signs and signals around school campuses providing safer crossings and facilities. In addition, the program develops maps that can help parents evaluate potential walking or biking routes to their kid’s school. Portland Police are also part of SRTS, enforcing traffic laws and building awareness around safe travel behavior near schools.

We want kids to be alert and aware of their environment, avoid distractions, trust and act on their intuition when something doesn’t seem right, and have a plan of what to do if problems arise.

Even under the best circumstances, it is always advised for parents to teach their children personal safety skills at a young age. We want kids to be alert and aware of their environment, avoid distractions, trust and act on their intuition when something doesn’t seem right, and have a plan of what to do if problems arise. This can be accomplished through routine talks and hands-on exercises that are conducted in an age-appropriate way and do not scare your child. The goal is to communicate that practicing personal safety skills is a normal and healthy habit that should be continued into adulthood.

Some safety concerns can be helped by the presence of parents and community members along walking and biking routes to school. SRTS offers guidance on forming a “walking school bus” or a “bike train.” These are organized groups of kids, parents and community members who walk or bike the recommended route. Kids traveling with adults in a group are less likely to be bullied, harassed or intimidated. The strength in numbers provides comfort to the kids and parents who participate in this activity.

Portland Safe Routes to School makes walking, biking and rolling around our neighborhoods and schools fun, safe and healthy for students and families. Regardless of the mode of transportation used to get to school, practicing safety is everyone’s responsibility. The community can also play an important role in creating safer routes for all kids through the neighborhood.

For questions about this program or how to report traffic safety issues:

  • To report infrastructure issues that are contributing to a traffic safety concern in Portland or a pattern of speeding near a school: 503-823-SAFE
  • For questions about Safe Routes to School in Portland or to get involved, contact 503-823-5358 or email saferoutes@portlandoregon.gov
  • For personal safety training for girls, see www.portlandoregon.gov/girlstrength
  • See our article, Talking to Kids about Safety: www.portlandoregon.gov/oni/article/570270

To request a free training for your organization or community group on crime prevention topics, access our prevention handouts or find your Crime Prevention Coordinator, visit the City of Portland’s Crime Prevention Program website at www.portlandoregon.gov/oni/cp for English; portlandoregon.gov/oni/prevencion for Spanish or call 503-823-4064.

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