The Denver Osteopathic Foundation partnered with Denver Public Schools to launch a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program to increase walking and bicycling at Ellis Elementary and other schools in Denver, Colo. Ellis Elementary School is a kindergarten through fifth grade school with a diverse student population of which more than half of the students live within one mile of the school.
The Denver Public Schools and the Denver Osteopathic Foundation share congruent goals of providing a safe and enriching environment for learning and improving the well-being of the students. Establishing a SRTS program was one way to help reach this goal. The two organizations recognized that to have a successful SRTS program they needed to bring the right people together. At Ellis Elementary, this led to the development of a School Traffic Safety Committee and the participation of the school administration and local law enforcement. The School Traffic Safety Committee was comprised of school administration, parents and volunteers. This group acted as a liaison between the school and the parents and was instrumental in communicating with parents. The principal worked with school staff to oversee program activities such as parent surveys, student travel count surveys and pedestrian and bicycle events and education. The law enforcement officers played an integral role by adding a level of credibility to program events, offering information about local law enforcement concerns and providing an authoritative presence around the school.
Over a four day period, the school surveyed students on how they arrived to school and found that more than 50 percent were driven by a parent, even though the majority of the students live within walking distance. Parents were surveyed to identify the concerns they had with allowing their children to walk or bicycle to school. Information collected from parents and students was used to inform the development of many of the SRTS program’s events and activities.
Within the school, the use of interactive presentations taught students in pre-kindergarten through second grade about pedestrian safety skills. The teachers utilized story boards, games and songs to ensure the children remembered the lessons learned. Ellis Elementary also included a bicycle skills workshop targeting third through fifth graders. The workshop consisted of a safety presentation about the rules of the road and proper helmet use, followed by students applying their knowledge and skills while practicing on a bicycle course.
The school holds weekly Walk ‘N Roll Wednesdays, when every Wednesday during April, students living within walking distance are encouraged to walk or bicycle to school and parents are welcome to accompany them. PTA representatives from the school, teachers and the principal await the children’s arrival outside school and give them small prizes for walking or bicycling. Given the diverse school population, the program incorporates several translations, including Spanish and Russian, of safety and education materials. Case Study Students walking home from school during Walk ‘N Roll Wednesday
Thanks to the concerted efforts of the School Traffic Safety Committee, the school, law enforcement officers, parent volunteers and interested students, the program has been a success. Since the program’s inception, the school has seen an increase in the number of students walking and bicycling from 27 percent of the student population to 36 percent. Pre and post-tests administered to the students before and after attending the bicycle and pedestrian safety courses reveal that in the short term, the sessions increased the children’s knowledge of bicycle and pedestrian safety procedures.
Phyllis A. Ring
Denver Osteopathic Foundation
3801 E. Florida Ave #635, Denver, CO 80210