Safe Routes Scoop
Encouraging Walking and Bicycling
through School Policies

In April 2009, the Netcong Elementary School, a Pre-K through 8th grade school in western Morris County, New Jersey, reversed a policy that had banned bicycling to and from school. For the first time since the 1980s, students in the 4th grade and above are riding bikes to and from class. Maribel Gallo, a 4th grader, was excited to start riding her bike. “I love to ride to school especially when the weather is nice.” Maribel’s Mom, Tammy, notes that “she beams with excitement every morning she can be more independent by riding her bike.” Netcong’s Board of Education decided to revise the policy when applying for federal Safe Routes to School funds. Neither the superintendent nor the board members knew why the ban was enacted in the first place. With rising concerns over fuel costs and lack of physical activity among students, the Board of Education decided that students would benefit from being able to ride to school as long as they enacted a sound policy that outlined the Board of Education’s expectations and proper school procedures.

 

Why Have a Bicycling and Walking Policy

All school boards of education should consider having walking and bicycling policies, even if the district buses 100% of its children. According to Beverly Stern, Executive Director of the New Jersey State School Nurses Association, “adopting a school bicycle or walking policy codifies what you

expect and standardizes the safety rules for the district.” Students and parents often do not follow safe pedestrian behavior on the school grounds or surrounding streets. According to Ms. Stern, “a policy that describes the benefits and also outlines safety information can help lay the groundwork for better behaviors.”

 

Ms. Stern worked with staff at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center to develop model policies that address walking and bicycling to and from school. She was especially interested in developing model policies after spending years working as a school nurse and seeing firsthand how opportunities for vigorous physical activity for children have decreased. “As physical inactivity and childhood obesity rates in the United States continue to rise, it is more important than ever to increase opportunities for students to get daily exercise.”

 

What Policies Should Cover

Good policies begin with outlining the benefits. For example, walking and bicycling promotes student well-being, provides physical activity and reduces pollution and congestion. After noting the advantages of promoting travel on foot, it is wise for policies to cite any statutes or laws that pertain to walking and bicycling. In New Jersey, state law mandates that anyone under 17 years of age who rides a bicycle, is a passenger on a bicycle, or

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