Safe Routes Scoop
Encouraging Walking and Bicycling
through School Policies

is towed as a passenger by a bicycle, must wear a safety helmet (for more about bicycle helmets, see the Getting Kids to Wear Helmets article in this issue of the Safe Routes Scoop). In addition, a 2002 Tort Liability Opinion states that if students in New Jersey bicycle to school, school administrators should have a policy about helmet use. A school’s code of conduct needs to reinforce helmet use and compliance with the law. By adopting a bicycle policy that requires helmet use, schools have the opportunity to help keep students safe and encourage compliance with the state bicycle helmet law.


Dealing with Barrier Policies

Sometimes schools with no policy can be just as much a barrier as schools that have policies that ban bicycling. When the content or even existence of a policy is unclear, everyone – principals, teachers, parents and students - can make assumptions that lead to poor decisions. If you have students that walk and bike to school, you need a policy that explains procedures and expectations and you need to communicate that policy to everyone in the school community.


A lack of an official policy on walking and biking is bad, but a bad policy is worse than  having none at all. According to Sara Zimmerman, a lawyer from the National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity, it is not clear that schools or boards of education even


have the legal ability to ban bicycling or walking. According to Ms. Zimmerman, “Schools have statutory authority over students from door to door strictly for disorderly conduct. They do not appear to have any authority to ban legal, socially beneficial behavior away from school.” On the other hand, a good policy is always helpful and does offer some legal protection.


School policies which encourage and support bicycling and walking can substantially boost a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, both within individual schools and throughout the community. In contrast, policies that discourage or prohibit bicycling or walking can stop a SRTS program in its tracks. The “School Bicycling and Walking Policies: Addressing Policies that Hinder and Implementing Policies that Help” tip sheet, jointly-developed by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the National Center for Safe Routes to School, provides simple steps to explain how to approach and overturn policies that prohibit walking and/or bicycling to school, and encourage supportive policies, which support and enable bicycling and walking to school programs. See: http://www.


for two model walking and bicycling to school policies that can be modified by school districts.

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