La Crosse, Wisconsin: Student participation increases school routes safety


A photo-visioning project was conducted in two fifth grade classes at Franklin Elementary School in La Crosse, WI. The project was designed to give children the opportunity to learn how to take pictures and to show adults the traffic challenges they face on the way to and from school. In conjunction with the photo-visioning project, the school also conducted a show of hands survey in the two classes. This show of hands survey, conducted in January 2007, provides baseline data on how children travel to and from school and demonstrates how easily this data can be gathered by classroom teachers. In addition, the information will serve as a reference point when school officials want to measure the success of La Crosse’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program.


A group of students and parents bicycles together.The photo-visioning project was designed to build on the schools knowledge of the surrounding neighborhoods. To educate the children on the SRTS concept and the basics of photography, a teaching session was held in one of the classrooms. Children received disposable cameras, provided by the city, to take photos of their own trip home from school that day and trip back to school the next day. Once the photos were developed, there was another class session for the unveiling of the pictures and to allocate time for the children to discuss what they learned and brainstorm how they could tell their stories to adults in an effort to improve safety. The children could earn extra credit points if they created a photo collage to present to city and school officials; wrote a short story about their walk, bicycle or car ride to school; interviewed any adults to learn how they traveled to and from school when they were children; spoke about SRTS to the PTO and the School Board; displayed their collage at public locations or spoke at a community meeting on SRTS.

The show of hands survey collected data on the mode of transportation that the children used to arrive at school on the day the survey was administered and how they got home from school the day before. The children also were asked to describe the area and driver behavior around the school.


The students described many barriers to walking and bicycling to school, such as cars not stopping at stop signs and traffic signals or speeding and driver impatience when in the student’s drop-off area. Based on the show of hands survey of the 31 students participating, 42 percent of children walked to school, 52 percent arrived to school by private vehicle, 3 percent arrived by school bus and 3 percent did not respond. For the return home from school, 55 percent of children walked, 39 percent were picked up by private vehicle, 3 percent rode the school bus home and 3 percent did not respond.

After the photo-visioning workshop was complete, La Crosse County dedicated $150,000 to be used to formally organize SRTS programs at Franklin Elementary and other schools in the county. With the money, they hired a SRTS school coordinator in La Crosse County to build support for SRTS programs and position La Crosse school district to apply for additional SRTS funds for the 2008/2009 school year.


Liana Escott
Community Development Administrator
City of La Crosse, Planning and Development
400 La Crosse St, La Crosse, WI 54601
Phone: (608) 789-7512