Alexandria, Virginia: Safe Routes to School Activities in Alexandria

Introduction

Alexandria, VA, is a compact city with more than 128,000 residents living in a 15 square mile area. Many of the city’s 13 elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school have been encouraging walking and bicycling to school and working to increase safety around the schools for several years before the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program began in 2006.

Activities

A student participates in a bicycle skill building activity.The SRTS programs in Alexandria are comprehensive and include some combination of engineering, education, encouragement and enforcement activities.

Since 1999, Alexandria has set aside a portion of the city budget for traffic calming measures to increase safety around the schools. In 2002 and 2003, neighborhood residents were able to apply for grants for infrastructure improvements, such as speed tables, bicycle lanes, pedestrian refuge islands and curb extensions, with the goal of decreasing traffic speed in their neighborhood.

Currently, many of the schools teach pedestrian and bicycle safety. The physical education teacher at Francis Hammond Middle School teaches bicycle safety each year, and many of the elementary school teachers teach pedestrian safety. The high school and the middle schools also have installed bicycle racks on the school grounds and bought 33 bicycles and helmets for bicycle training. Since 2003, many schools in the district also have participated in Walk to School Day.

One important enforcement practice at the schools is the organization of crossing guards, led by a crossing guard supervisor within the police department. At the beginning of the year, each school’s Parent-Teacher Association holds a meeting to survey where the demand for crossing guards is greatest. Every school has crossing guards who can move easily to different streets depending on demand. To further increase safety around the schools, the school zone speed limits have decreased to 15 miles per hour.

Milestones

In 2007, the City of Alexandria school district received a $25,000 SRTS grant for education and encouragement efforts. This money was distributed to four elementary schools and one middle school. Hammond Middle School is using the funds to expand the existing bicycle safety program by adding bicycle incentive items and buying a video camera and helmet camera to assist in the training.

Jefferson-Houston Elementary School applied the funds for a Walk to School Day and to host a pedestrian and bicycle summit for fourth and fifth graders. Barrett Elementary School also participated in Walk to School Day as a kick-off for the Walking Wednesdays program. The school encourages families to walk at least once a week and parents are setting up an informal walking school bus. Students at Barrett Elementary also have been given “Frequent Walker/Bicyclist” cards, and once they receive 10 punches on their card, they turn the card in for prizes, such as jump ropes, water bottles and wrist bands. Polk Elementary School used the funds for participating in Walk to School Day and used the day to kick-off its active Fitness Fridays, which provides incentives for students to walk and bicycle. George Mason Elementary school also used the funds for Walk to School Day and held a bicycle safety rodeo for all students with the assistance of the Washington Area Bicycle Association. The city of Alexandria also is preparing “Safest Route to School” walking maps for the four elementary schools that will be distributed in the spring of 2008.

VDOT also awarded the City of Alexandria $492,000 in SRTS grant funds for infrastructure improvements and other education and encouragement activities. This funding will be used for intersection improvements, new sidewalks, bicycle racks and other improvements to be determined in the design phase. In preparation to receive the funds, the City of Alexandria has completed minor pedestrian safety improvements around the schools that include: an all-way stop and new striping at Barrett Elementary School, a bulb-out and mid-block crosswalk at Polk Elementary School, new pedestrian countdown timers and curb ramps at Hammond Middle School, 1.5 miles of bicycle lanes for George Mason Elementary School, and new sidewalks and intersection improvements near Mount Vernon Elementary School.

Contact

Yon Lambert
Pedestrian and Bicycle Program Coordinator
Transportation & Environmental Services
City of Alexandria
Phone: (703) 838-4966
Email: yon.lambert@alexandriava.gov