In previous generations, the majority of school aged children either walked or biked to school. Children got more physical activity, our streets were less congested, and our air quality was better. Fast forward to 2011: less than 15 percent of children living within a two-mile radius either walk or bike to school. A vast majority are either driven by parents or taken to school by bus. Increased traffic and safety concerns have made it inhospitable for many children to bike or walk to school.
Safe Routes to School
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Programs were created to reverse these trends. SRTS can fund infrastructure and/or programs that improve safety and encourage walking and bicycling. Projects emerge through a collaborative effort between parents, schools, community members and local government. One of the key steps in determining potential partner schools is based on need. A new mapping tool from the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) has been a huge help this year in determining where to prioritize SRTS efforts in the City of Los Angeles. (Below is a map developed by SafeTREC of pedestrian and bicycle collisions near school sites in central LA between 2006 and 2008. )
The Tool: Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS)
The recently introduced Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS) is a means to access, view and map collision data – providing a visual representation of collision data that can be more readily identifiable than data in a spreadsheet. It is a vital tool in our search for intersections and streets that are most in need of changes.
TIMS was established by the SafeTREC at UC Berkeley to provide data and mapping analysis tools and information for traffic safety related research, policy and planning. The center developed a standardized method for mapping collision data from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) – the depository for all reported vehicle crashes in California that occur on a public roadway. TIMS also displays the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for nationwide traffic collision data that contains a fatality. This data can be viewed using Google Maps and/or other Geographical Information System (GIS) software for more in-depth analysis.
TIMS and Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS)
SafeTREC has developed interactive geospatial PDF planning maps (like the one at the top of the post) for each city and county in California to aid SRTS efforts. Maps display schools – including district boundaries, street oriented bicycle and pedestrian collisions, free/reduced priced meal eligibility, and past state and federal SRTS awards. Analyzing these factors help cities determine where funding could best be utilized, whether schools are in low-income or disadvantaged communities, and whether neighborhoods have received similar funding awards in the past for other problem sites.
LADOT has prepared maps of recommended safe routes to school within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). These are available for the school district’s elementary and middle schools. Coupled with TIMS SafeTREC data and the department’s own in house database, staff can ascertain which school sites could most use the interventions SRTS funding could provide.
Our Hope for Safe Routes to School
The LADOT Bike Blog knows that information is a valuable tool that can affect great change. We hope that our brief overview has informed everyone about the need for safe routes to school and has provided some insight into the tools that we are using to analyze worthy school sites. LADOT will need everyone’s support as we move forward with identifying and implementing projects designed to make children’s trips to school safer. For additional information, please visit National Center for Safe Routes to School, as well as Safe Routes to School National Partnership.