Separating Motor Vehicles from Pedestrians and Bicyclists

Mill Valley, CA.

Phoenix, AZ.

Separate bus loading area at Monroe Elementary School in Utah.

Traffic cones can be used to keep parents from entering the bus loading area at Monroe Elementary School in Utah.

Separating or eliminating conflicts between students arriving on foot or bicycle from those arriving by busses and motor vehicles is highly recommended. Adequate physical space should be provided for each mode by which students arrive at school. Also, the route provided for each mode should be separate from other modes. Provision of sidewalks and bikeways which are separate from lanes dedicated to busses and lanes dedicated to motor vehicles will reduce a student's exposure to traffic. Students walking or riding to school should not have to cross busy driveways or roadways to access the campus. If they do, an adult school crossing guard or older student should be placed at the crossing to assist students safely across.

It may be appropriate to provide a separate travel lane for busses, a separate lane for private motor vehicles, and specific routes for pedestrians and bicyclists. Separate bus zones can be established either on the school site, or on the adjacent street, wherever sufficient room exists. Preferably the bus zone is not immediately adjacent to the vehicle area to ensure that there is no spillover from the vehicles into the bus area.

A separation of arrival and departure time may also be useful. Staggered bell times for groups of students help to disperse the traffic peak at schools during the relatively short drop-off and pick-up periods. Staggered release, or bell, times for walkers or bicyclists, bus riders and carpoolers can help reduce pedestrian or bicyclist exposure to, and minimize conflicts with, motor vehicles. Conflicts often occur when private vehicles and busses arrive at the same time and in the same location. For example, busses may use a drop-off and pick-up lane at a certain time to be followed by private motor vehicle use at a later time. Staggered bell times are most applicable for schools with a large student population or when two or more schools are in close proximity to one another.

To further reduce conflicts, school facilities can be arranged to eliminate or reduce the number of children walking through parking lots. Children should walk around parking lots on dedicated walkways or sidewalks. If this is not possible, clearly marked walkways through parking lots with adult or older student monitors should be used, and speed calming treatments such as humps or bumps should be employed in the parking lots.

School bus loading areas should be separated from parent drop-off and pick-up areas if at all possible. Signs, pavement markings, gates or orange cones may be used to provide this separation, but some education and enforcement will also be needed.

Tool: Separating vehicles from pedestrians and bicyclists

What is it and how does it work?

  • Provide different school access points in space or time for various student travel modes.

Benefits strategy provides

  • Provide efficient and safe flow of all modes with minimal mixing.

Key factors to consider

  • Can be costly if construction is needed.
  • New schools and rebuilt or modernized schools should be carefully reviewed to ensure the separation is present.