Putting It Into Practice: Bicycle Safety Training

B.B. Harris Elementary, Duluth, GA

At B.B. Harris Elementary in Duluth, Georgia, Safe Routes to School Project staff collaborated with the school's physical education teachers to train 450 children in grades three through five in bicycle safety over one month. Using the League of American Bicyclists Kids Bicycle Education and the Basics of Bicycling curricula, the school developed a 5-session bicycle safety program to fit the physical education schedule. The course was entitled, "Safe Bicycle Driving," and the instructor (certified by the League of American Bicyclists), began each class by telling the students that this was effectively their very first driver's education class; whatever they grow up to drive — cars, trucks, motorcycles, or bicycles, the same rules of the road apply.

Through the training, the children had opportunities to fit helmets and bicycles, practice bicycle-handling skills, and learn four basic rules of the road. On the final day, the students were introduced to "Harristown, A Bicycle-Friendly City," in the gym, with simulated streets and destinations such as a store, a park, and a library. The students rode around the "city" to the Harristown destinations, some as bicycle-drivers and some as car-drivers. A few served as police officers, giving out tickets to those who violated a rule of the road. The students then received a "Safe Bicycle Drivers License" and an activity booklet by the same name.

Putting It Into Practice: Institutionalizing Safety Education

Rockville, MD

In Rockville, MD all 7000 elementary students receive bicycle and pedestrian education. Since 2004, bicycle and pedestrian safety has been a standard part of the school system's teaching curriculum. The program was initiated by City of Rockville staff and is now coordinated by physical education teachers.

Practicing bicycle skills in a simulated environment at Farmland Elementary School, Rockville, MD.

The curriculum includes a series of interactive lesson plans designed for each grade. Students in kindergarten through second grade learn basic pedestrian concepts. Older elementary school students (grades three through five) focus on bicycle safety fundamentals such as proper use of a bicycle helmet, rules of the road, laws pertaining to bicyclists and bicycle handling techniques. Students practice pedestrian and bicyclist skills through simulated scenarios using bicycles, helmets and pedestrian safety props supplied by the City. In addition, the school's safety patrol practices bicycle and pedestrian safety skills and then reinforces safety messages to students.

At Farmland Elementary school in Rockville, few students bicycled to school before the program began. Afterwards, the bicycle rack was full every day. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association has begun to extend the reach of the program into other schools in Montgomery County and Prince George's County. The Maryland Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Education Program has been made available to public and private schools, law enforcement agencies and community organizations throughout Maryland as well as being available on-line for any community to use.

Putting It Into Practice: Parent Safety Drive Initiative

Dorset County Council, Dorset County, England

Dorset County Council's innovative Parent Safety Drive was piloted at Sherborne's Abbey Primary School in 2003. It aims to reduce the county's high number of child passenger injuries and to cut down on unnecessary trip to school by motor vehicle by helping and encouraging parents to become better, safer and more sensible drivers. Linked to the development of school community supported travel plans, this scheme aims to change parent attitudes to motor vehicle use in a practical, non-threatening way. The initiative is promoted in partnership with the local National Health Service Primary Care Trust, which provides a range of health services for local people and is eager to work in partnership with the local highway authority to reduce the number of child transportation-related injuries and improve driving standards.

The focus of the program is to:

  • Improve parents' driving standards
  • Reduce the number of child road casualties
  • Encourage more sensible use of the motor vehicle
  • Reduce the number of parent vehicles within the immediate environment of the school

Parents spend an hour with an experienced driving instructor who shares useful defensive driving and hazard awareness advice and tips using familiar local streets. There is no test or assessment involved. Parents drive on a range of roads, including congested urban environments and quieter but faster rural roads. Safer parking and reversing techniques are included in the session together with an opportunity to discuss in-car safety issues and suggestions for locations to park and walk the remainder of the trip to school. Highway code knowledge is revisited as well. It is promoted as a rare chance to refresh driving skills, perhaps for the first time since taking a driving test. There is a fee for the drive of £18 per hour, but a subsidy is planned. Evaluation from parents who have participated was reported as encouraging.

This initiative requires schools to recruit volunteers and to promote the concept of parent driver improvement as a fundamental objective in the school travel planning process. It also requires persuading some parents that you never stop learning as a driver and that 100 percent concentration is required.

Putting It Into Practice: Walking School Bus

Olive Chapel Elementary School, Apex, NC

Olive Chapel Elementary students walk to school.

In 2004, the Olive Chapel Walk to School Coalition kicked-off a monthly walking school bus, giving families an opportunity to walk to school despite the construction that neighborhoods near the school had experienced in recent years.

"Neighborhood captains," parents and children walk from six separate departure points to the school. One route meets in a parking lot so families who live too far to walk can participate. Reminders about the monthly walk are sent home on the previous Friday and children who participate receive prizes.

Parent volunteers act as neighborhood captains. At the start of the school year, they receive safety training. During the walks, they wear green vests and use whistles to communicate to children when they need to stop. Because the activity is designed to be family-oriented, parents are required to walk with their children to school, but they are free to arrange among themselves to supervise each other's children.

A volunteer parent and the school physical education teacher share leadership of this growing activity. Since it began, one route has had as many as 200 people who regularly walk.