This year, the Boulder Valley School District had more schools participate in the national Walk to School Day event on October 2 than any school district in Colorado. While that is certainly a pride point for the BVSD – the district’s real desire is to show students, families, and staff the many benefits of walking to school, in hopes they will do it daily, making school zones safer for everyone.
MORE INFORMATION: Walk & Bike to School
PHOTOS: Walk to School Day
You read that right. While it might sound a bit counterintuitive, research shows safety increases when more families walk or bike to school.
“It translates into fewer cars on the roads around schools,” explained BVSD district-wide event coordinator Amy Thompson, who helped parents and staff organize Walk to School activities this year. “Ultimately, there is more safety in numbers. The more people that are out there and walking and biking, the safer it is.”
“I spent so many years being a crossing guard and staffing ‘Hug and Go’ lanes, and I see how insane drop off can be in the morning,” Thompson added. “Anything we can do to soothe it, calm it, back it off – by having people walking and biking, instead of driving to school is a good thing.”
Unfortunately, according to Landon Hilliard with BVSD’s Transportation Department and a co-coordinator of the BVSD Safe Routes to School Program, at many of our schools we see the opposite, which results in a vicious cycle.
“The more automobile traffic there is, the less safe conditions are for walking, biking and other modes,” Hilliard said. “That forces parents to second guess whether walking or biking is viable and then they drive, so there are more automobiles, so on and so forth, until we have a school zone clogged with automobiles.”
More cars, more crashes
With a growing number of cars on the road, we have seen more crashes. This fall, Hillard with other transportation specialists have responded to a number of schools after cars have hit students walking or biking to or from school.
“Our main role is to be a facilitator,” explained Hilliard. “We work to identify measures necessary to increase safety in our school zones.“
Recently, district leaders and traffic engineers from the City of Boulder met on the campus shared by Southern Hills Middle School and Fairview High School to better understand the conditions that have led to at least six incidents in the south Boulder area. Together, we will be implementing a number of measures to improve safety.
“We strongly value our partnership with local municipalities,” Hilliard said. “Their resources, expertise and involvement are necessary as we collaboratively make improvements. Ultimately, together we aim to make our streets safe and comfortable for all users, no matter the age or ability.”
The City of Boulder has made this a priority through its Vision Zero initiative. The program’s ambitious goal is to have zero fatalities and zero serious injuries.
Share the Road
BVSD understands the importance of transportation in the lives of students every day.
“Transportation is a part of the school day,” Hilliard explains. “ Active transportation, which is something that creates some opportunity for physical activity on the way to school, has been shown to prepare students to learn and to have better attention, to improve behavior, and support academic performance.”
While BVSD’s Transportation Department is known for busing students, it is involved in every mode of transit students use to get to and from school. Hilliard encourages everyone to take up a Share the Road attitude, by being alert and considerate.
“Everyone that enters a school zone needs to be aware of the fact that it is a mixed-mode environment,” Hilliard said. “We want transportation to work for all and to lay out options for students, parents and staff members to come to school in whatever way works for them. Bottom line, school zones need to be safe and comfortable for anyone using them. We encourage the most active and healthy and safest ways to school. I don’t think there is anything better than being outside with your children, getting some fresh air, having conversations and slowing down a little bit.”