Interactive driver feedback signs alert drivers to school zones and pedestrian crossings. Safe Routes to School funds also can help with crossing guard programs.

The SRTS legislation also funded creation of the National Center for Safe Routes to School (the SRTS Clearinghouse) for developing and sharing information and educational programs to promote walking and biking to school and to provide states and municipalities with strategies and technical assistance.

The program has been funded for the five-year cycle of the current federal highway bill, with funds apportioned to each state annually. Funding levels increase slightly each year through 2009 when an estimated $183 million will be distributed.

Says Hecox, “Many state coordinators tell us that the dollar amount requested through applications far exceeds the available funding. This demonstrates the strong interest among communities to provide children the opportunity to walk safely to school.”

The Five E's

Grant recipients must incorporate five distinct components into their programs—the Five E's:

Engineering: Create operational and physical improvements to the infrastructure surrounding schools that reduce speeds and potential conflicts with traffic, and establish safer and fully accessible crossings, walkways, trails, and bikeways.

Education: Teach children about the broad range of transportation choices, instructing them in safety skills and launching driver safety campaigns.

Enforcement: Partner with local law enforcement to ensure that traffic laws are obeyed near schools and initiate community enforcement such as crossing guard programs.

Encouragement: Use events and activities to promote walking and bicycling.

Evaluation: Monitor and document outcomes and trends—both before and after program implementation.