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Safe Routes to School Moving Forward in Fairfax County Public Schools!

IWTSD 026The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) regional network is ending the year with several major successes in Fairfax County. After convening a special SRTS working group within Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Transportation and Safety division in June, FCPS has agreed to several initiatives that will highlight SRTS activities and increase the numbers of students walking or biking to school everyday.

FCPS will add SRTS specific language to their “Golden Wellness Award” scorecard, which is used to determine how closely the individual schools are implementing the FCPS Health and Wellness Policy. This sought after award will now include specific recommended activities, like Walking Wednesdays, Bike Trains, Walking School Buses, participation in International Walk to School Day (IWTSD) as well as Bike to School Day. In addition, delivery of bicycle and pedestrian safety education at the individual school will be a required element in order to win the award. The schools system’s 95210 A Day (9 hours of sleep, 5 fruits and vegetables, less than 2 hours of screen time, at least 1 hour of exercise and 0 sugary drinks) will be updated to include walking or bicycling to school as a suggested activity to get to the 1 hour daily activity goal.

FCPS has also agreed to create and host a SRTS focused webpage with resources for school administrators, parents, community champions and children who would like to see more SRTS activities at their school. This site will include policy, curriculum standards and sample lesson plans, state and local contacts, grant application resources, sample newsletter articles and resources for planning walking and bicycling events. FCPS will also prepare scripts and create videos specifically geared to youth bicycling and safe pedestrian practices for the Fairfax County public access television channels as well as the internal FCPS channels.

An annual survey of schools will be continued (modeled after the first one in May 2011) in order to adequately account for how every student is transported to and from school. Counts will be made of bus riders, walkers, kiss and ride users as well as data collected comparing those numbers to the assigned mode. The survey in May proved invaluable, allowing us to create a list of the top ten schools where with a little encouragement, FCPS could see an increase in the numbers of students walking or bicycling to school, thereby alleviating the extreme traffic jams due to the kiss and ride queues. Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB) is contemplating creating a “Green Transit” award for the top schools in Fairfax Co who increase their assigned mode numbers, whether it is by bus transportation or walking or bicycling. A survey of the 27 schools who participated in IWTSD will also be completed to determine their strategies, success and participation rate.

FCPS officials also committed to working in tandem with Fairfax County transportation planners to submit an application for a SRTS non-infrastructure grant in the spring and also agreed to begin the process of determining which school locations would most benefit from an infrastructure grant, when the application is revised and those grant opportunities announced.

The FCPS SRTS Working Group will continue to meet quarterly throughout 2012 to update partners on progress, monitor initiatives and strategize for system wide events, including Bike to School Day (in conjunction with Bike to Work Day) in May and International Walk to School Day in October.

Author’s Note:  This article inadvertently left out those on our Fairfax County SRTS Task Force who have worked tremendously hard to achieve this progress in the County.  Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), Trails for Youth as well as Wolf Trap Elementary parent, Jeff Anderson and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Transportation Advisory Committee member Jenifer Joy Madden were central to this effort.

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