Making the Walk to School Safer: Walkability Assessments and School Travel Plans

“Where it is safe, get more kids walking and bicycling; where it is not safe, make it safe”. These two tenets of the federally funded Safe Routes to School program have guided goHunterdon’s Safe Routes to School programming since 2008.

goHunterdon coordinates local Safe Routes to School programming, encouraging students in walkable communities to walk or bicycle to school more often with themed events, friendly competitions between schools, and providing important bicycle and pedestrian safety education for students in grades K-8.

In preparation for spring 2023 programming, goHunterdon staff is developing new templates to be used by students to assess the physical environment along their walk (and bike) to school. Students will participate in “walkability assessments”, including observing the condition of sidewalks, documenting the presence of marked crosswalks, and driver behavior toward pedestrians.

“Walkability assessments are a great learning tool for students, teaching them how physical infrastructure can encourage or discourage walking or bicycling,” says Ryan Fisher, goHunterdon Safety Programs Manager. “Conducting assessments also provides an opportunity for students to become engaged in their community to improve safety, mobility and access,” says Fisher.

Assessments also inform the development of formal School Travel Plans and Policies. School Travel Plans identify short and long term solutions for improving pedestrian and bicycle travel to and from school. School Travel Policies establish guidelines for student travel to and from school and reinforce safe walking and bicycling behaviors that students should follow.

goHunterdon will work with fourteen schools to update School Travel Plans this year: Barley Sheaf Elementary School, Bloomsbury Elementary School, Califon Public School, Clinton Public School, Delaware Township School, Reading-Fleming Intermediate School, Robert Hunter Elementary School, Frenchtown Elementary School, Hampton Public School, High Bridge Elementary School, High Bridge Middle School, Lambertville Public School, Lebanon Borough School, and Milford Public School.