Recognizing that one of the most critical factors regarding the safety of children walking to school is motor vehicular speed, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) instituted the DC Neighborhood Pace Car pilot program. This program educates drivers of the effects their motor vehicles have on a neighborhood and encourages drivers to travel within the speed limit by signing the Pace Car pledge, placing the Pace Car sticker on the rear of their vehicles and obeying the posted speed limits in neighborhoods and school zones, thereby setting the “pace” for a higher standard of safety for themselves and for other drivers.
The Pace Car pilot program targeted three schools located near one another in Ward 3 of Washington, D.C. The idea was to choose schools in close proximity to each other so that the efforts at one location will enhance the efforts at the other locations.
In 2006, WABA received a SRTS grant from the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) for $15,000. From November 2006 to April 2007, WABA used this money to develop materials and to gain support from the schools’ administrations, parents, community leaders and law enforcement officers. Support from the parents was encouraged by creating a competition among the three schools. Pace Car brochures, stickers and an explanation about the competition were distributed to all of the classrooms and then sent home with the students. The parents were given ten days to sticker their vehicles and return the signed pledges. The school with the highest percentage of signed pledges won the competition. Since it was fun, interactive and reasonable, the contest was a huge success. The winning school had more than 50 percent of parents sign and return their pledge cards.
After the competition results had been tallied, WABA officially launched the Pace Car Program at a press conference attended by school principals, parents, students, police officers, DDOT personnel, city council members and the local media. Speeches were made and awards were presented to the schools for their participation in the competition.
In total, Washington, D.C.’s Pace Car pilot program garnered more than 800 participants, with 500 registered through the schools, 200 registered online, and 100 registered through various community presentations. The program has been so successful that WABA is considering starting a Pace Car training program designed to teach other cities how to work with schools and communities to create a program that is readily acceptable by the community. Case Study DC Councilmember Mary Cheh presents the First Place School award to the captain of the Janney Elementary crossing guard team.
One consideration throughout the planning process was the possibility that drivers driving the speed limit could cause other drivers to exhibit road rage. However, to date, WABA has not received any reports indicating Pace Car-induced road rage.
Washington Area Bicyclist Association
1803 Connecticut Ave, NW, 3rd floor Washington, DC 20009
Phone: (202) 518-0524