The youth of Trenton, like youth everywhere, deserve safe and easy access to their schools. The Safe Routes to Schools program takes on the perspective that conditions around schools should be safe spaces that encourage and nurture youth. This program examines conditions around schools and aims to improve safety and accessibility, while also reducing traffic and air pollution in the vicinity of schools. As a result, these programs help make bicycling and walking to school safer and more appealing transportation choices thus encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age.
SRTS is a federally funded reimbursement program that was established to encourage more students to walk and bike to school where it is safe to do so and to improve the areas where it is not safe. The Trenton Board of Education adopted a Comprehensive School Wellness Policy that includes goals for Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS). The Wellness Policy includes the goals for Safe Routes to Schools because “active transportation to school provides well documented benefits towards a child’s health and mental performance in the classroom.” (http://www.saferoutesnj.org
Six Trenton schools have approved SRTS travel plans which document existing conditions and include recommendations to improve biking and walking conditions. (http://www.saferoutesnj.org/
Grace A. Dunn Middle School
Hedgepeth Williams Middle School
Joyce Kilmer Elementary School
Monument Elementary School
Robeson Elementary School
Woodrow Wilson Elementary School
The City should partner with local Parent-Teacher Associations and the City’s Division of Traffic & Transportation to identify a group of dedicated residents that would assess the state of conditions around a single pilot school, ideally identifying major barriers to youth walking or biking to the school safely. Once the existing conditions have been determined, the group can, working with staff at Trenton Public Schools, make recommendations to local businesses, residents and to those maintaining the public spaces and transit spaces around the school for how to better increase the safety and security of the City’s youth. This model can then be repeated at other schools across the City.
The City of Trenton should encourage all schools to develop SRTS Travel Plans, including Charter and Private Schools. The City should work with the Board of Education to prioritize improvements from the Travel Plans in order to apply for SRTS Grant Funding. The City should also integrate elements from the Travel Plans into a prioritized database (See Infrastructure Maintenance and Prioritization Initiative), and schedule implementation through the City’s Capital Improvements Program or Maintenance Program. The Greater Mercer TMA can assist with the creation of travel plans. After completing travel plans, the City of Trenton should apply for SRTS grants to fund the improvements.
Meadowview Elementary School in Bossier City, Louisiana is a school of approximately 600 students. Just 50 students living in the designated walk zone walk to school regularly while an additional 104 are provided bus transportation due to safety concerns. In 2007, staff at this growing elementary school began to look for ways in which to increase the number of students walking to school. With the help of a Safe Routes to Schools grant from the Federal Highway Administration, Meadowview Elementary School hired more crossing guards, fixed cracked sidewalks, installed a fence in an area with a dangerous ditch just off the sidewalk, and made other safety improvements in hopes of increasing walkability. Additionally, the school implemented a student safety patrol which present in-class pedestrian safety education program, as well as an awareness campaign in which, parents and community members receive fliers promoting driver awareness and safety (National Center for Safe Routes to Schools).