Community partnerships make Moscow, Idaho, SRTS program long-lasting

Consistency, collaboration and a creative partnership with the University of Idaho have enabled the rural community of Moscow, Idaho, to sustain its Safe Routes to School program over the past five years.

“As we’ve grown our reputation, we have received more and more community and business support as well as school and parent support,” said Brooke Lowry, Moscow Safe Routes to School Coordinator.

The city of 22,000 faced some basic safety concerns due to a lack of sidewalks. School parking lots were designed for car traffic rather than pedestrian and cyclist traffic, and a major state highway bisects the town.

SRTS funding helped build sidewalks and increased awareness of the need for sidewalks, leading the City to direct other transportation funding toward pedestrian infrastructure, said SRTS program director Helen Brown, an instructor in the Department of Movement Sciences within the College of Education at the University of Idaho.

Moscow SRTS holds three annual encouragement events: 

  1. International Walk to School Day
  2. Polar Walk, an event that began as a way to encourage students to walk to school in the winter but grew into an event focused on climate change and making environmentally sustainable decisions
  3.  Fill the Racks, an annual bike to school event.

In addition, it promotes walking school buses, bike trains and the use of crossing guards for year-round SRTS programming. Each year, more than 400 fourth graders study bike safety as a physical education unit. A current interactive mapping project that highlights recommended routes will increase the educational impact.

“Some of our students travel a great distance to school, and we have safety busing for a number of students due to unsafe access to schools.” Brown said. “North Idaho winters are long, dark and cold. We met that challenge with our highly successful Polar Walk. Despite that we are a small, rural community, safety concerns are still a barrier that we try to overcome by promoting walking school buses.”

The City and University partner together for the SRTS program; the city is the grant administrator and handles the infrastructure projects, while the University is responsible for the non-infrastructure aspects of the program.  Since 2006, the Idaho Department of Transportation has awarded Moscow SRTS $103,134 for non-infrastructure projects. This coming year, the program will receive its third award for infrastructure funding, making the total funding awarded over several years equal to $269,880. In-kind support from unpaid staff time, law enforcement, printing and event incentives has also bolstered the program.

Partnerships with the University have expanded over the past five years and include assistance from students studying Civil Engineering, Movement and Science, pre-service elementary education, physical education, Human Factors Psychology, art, landscape architecture, Bio-Regional Planning and Engineering. In addition, 40 to 50 UI athletes have helped at each of the three major events. The SRTS program has a part-time coordinator, and it is also supported by two faculty from the Movement Sciences Department: Brown and Dr. Grace Goc Karp, assistant director.

“Our goal is to have safe walking and biking education integrated into the district’s curriculum,” Brown said. They plan to create standards-based lessons that are easy for classroom teachers to use and also teach and encourage students to use active travel modes.

Tips to keep your own program going

Moscow SRTS has identified several key features that sustain the program:

  • Identify a coordinator.
  • Garner school and parent support.
  •  Seek outside sources of support.
  • Create strong SRTS teams at each school.
  • Expand parent involvement.
  • Ask for help from the local hospital, law enforcement, students, etc. to boost the volunteer base.