A family travels together to Marylin Elementary School in Atlanta, GA.

Teaching children to safely walk and bicycle is of central importance in Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs. A secondary, valuable focus is teaching children about the benefits of walking and bicycling such as the positive impact these activities have on personal health and the environment. Knowing these benefits can help children understand the importance of these activities and inspire participation.

School-based education

This section focuses on the delivery of education through the school because:

  1. While ideally children receive most of their instruction from parents, this does not always happen. School-based education assures that all children get the chance to learn and practice the same skills.
  2. All children can benefit from learning bicycle and pedestrian safety behaviors regardless of whether they will walk and bicycle to school as these skills will serve them throughout life.
  3. The reality in some communities is that young children who would ideally be supervised by adults are walking to school alone, which makes providing safety education and other strategies all the more important.

When to teach

A challenge with providing safety education in the schools is that children, even in the same grade, vary in their readiness to handle traffic situations such as choosing a safe time to cross a street. In general, children are not ready to cross a street alone until age ten (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Ideally parents are a central figure in their children's safety education. Parents have the best opportunities to effectively assess their individual child's skills and teach safe behavior in the course of daily life so they should be encouraged to participate in their child's safety education. It is also important to emphasize to children that they need to check with their parents before walking or bicycling alone. Children may believe that because they have been taught how to cross a street, for example, that they are ready to do so on their own.