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MnDOT | Safe Routes to School Planning Guidance


Welcome! Thank you for joining us for the second webinar
of the Minnesota Safe Routes to School Training series. This webinar is focused on Planning Guidance
and today we will provide an overview of the Safe Routes to School planning process in
Minnesota. My name is Gena, and my name is Hannah, and
we will be your hosts for this session. This webinar series is sponsored by Minnesota
Safe Routes to School, to assist planners, engineers, school administrators, teachers,
parents, and students throughout the state. For an introduction to Safe Routes to School,
view the first webinar in this series, called “What is Safe Routes to School? An Introduction.” The third webinar covers “Special Topics
in Safe Routes to School Planning” and includes coalition building, communications, and equity. Today we’ll provide an overview of the planning
process, beginning with a discussion of the planning process objectives. We’ll cover how to assemble a Safe Routes
to School team in your community to plan and take action locally. We will discuss how to conduct an existing
conditions assessment and a walk audit to bring key stakeholders together and identify
needed infrastructure improvements. We will discuss specific strategies and action
steps for implementing a Safe Routes to School program, and how to develop a final plan that
provides a framework and next steps for pursuing Safe Routes to School in your community. We’ll be interspersing the recommendations
with some specific examples from communities throughout Minnesota that have conducted Safe
Routes to School planning processes, and highlight some tips for planning in the school context
and for successfully working with school administration and staff. At the end of the presentation we’ll share
resources you can use to learn more about Safe Routes to School in Minnesota or begin
working on your plan, and we will provide contact information for any questions you
may have. Safe Routes to School plans document existing
walking and biking conditions around the school, as well as existing education and outreach
efforts, and provide a specific and clear action plan for future work. Some plans focus on a single school, while
others focus on an entire school district. A well-written plan should be developed by
an engaged and supportive team and will guide Safe Routes to School work at a school. The plan should include short and long-term
goals, that are realistic and manageable and include both infrastructure and non-infrastructure
actions. The planning process aims at bringing decision
makers, community members, and school staff together to plan for walking and biking in
their communities. This presentation is intended for anyone who
wants to develop a Safe Routes to School Plan for your community and will help you through
the planning process. To help with the planning process, the Safe
Routes to School Handbook is a great tool available for download from the Resource Center. It includes information on how to assemble
a team, determine goals, identify action steps, and track progress over time. The Minnesota Safe Routes to School Resource
Center website, shown here, is full of resources and is updated often with new information,
resources, news, and funding opportunities. The website has additional trainings about
Safe Routes to School principals such as education and encouragement activities, so don’t feel
overwhelmed, or like you have to reinvent the wheel. The website address is www.mnsaferoutestoschool.org You should start by convening a team of stakeholders
who will work together to think about the issues and create the plan. The Safe Routes to School Team should include
representatives from the school, interested parents, community volunteers or advocates,
law enforcement officers, city planners, and others. It can also be helpful to include older students,
such as high school age students, to share their perspectives and brainstorm solutions
that would be benefit them. We have found that, having an engaged school
superintendent and/or principal is really essential for a successful program. Getting support from the superintendent and
principal from the outset will increase the likelihood that teachers and staff will buy
in to the program. For more information on communication and
messaging targeted at teachers, city staff and families, watch Webinar #3 in this series
and refer to the MN Safe Routes to School Resource Center tip sheets. Here’s a story of how a strong Safe Routes
to School team can make a new program be successful: In Fall 2015, the community of Mahtomedi,
Minnesota developed a Safe Routes to School plan for three schools. The Safe Routes to School Team included a
dedicated group of community members, along with City and County staff, including the
mayor. Having key decision-makers on the Safe Routes
to School Team, plus motivated and excited community advocates, created a strong coalition
for moving the recommendations forward. Following the development of the Mahtomedi
Safe Routes to School Plan, the team identified safe walking and biking routes to schools
and created Suggested Route Maps for all three schools. Recently, the coalition has been working together
to advocate for implementation of advisory bike lanes. Throughout the planning process, the Safe
Routes to School Team should meet and work together on several occasions to establish
relationships and build trust. The kickoff meeting is an opportunity to bring
all stakeholders together to discuss Safe Routes to School in your community. The meeting helps everyone get on the same
page about why Safe Routes to School is important and identify who is involved, and who isn’t
but should be. The Kickoff Meeting Agenda should include
an overview of the Safe Routes to School planning effort, including the purpose and benefits
of Safe Routes to School, the planning process timeline, and the role of the Safe Routes
to School Team. Meeting organizers can also facilitate a discussion
of local issues and concerns. If you have already applied for planning assistance
through the Minnesota Safe Routes to School program, the team can review the planning
assistance application and discuss the issues and goals identified in the application. Evaluation is about measuring and documenting
how Safe Routes to School programs impact the number of students walking and biking. It’s important to capture the baseline data
before you begin your Safe Routes to School work, so you can compare it with new data
over time. Surveys are an important part of the Safe
Routes to School Evaluation process. Parent surveys and student hand tallies provide
a baseline look at how students are traveling to and from school, plus attitudes and perceptions
of walking and biking. Looking at the before and after data helps
us to understand how programs and projects are impacting students. The Parent Survey is a standard evaluation
tool, which is available from the National Center for Safe Routes to School. Parent surveys provide a baseline look at
attitudes and perceptions of walking and biking. The Safe Routes to School Team should notify
parents about the survey, and a paper version must be provided to parents without internet
or computer access, in addition to translated versions of the survey based on your school’s
needs. It is very important to address parents’
needs through a Safe Routes to School Program, as they are ultimately the ones who decide
how their children travel to and from school. This slide shows an example of the survey
results generated from the National Center for Safe Routes to School’s Data Center
website. The survey provides information about parents’
concerns that keep them from walking or biking to school. You can use their responses to target specific
program activities or events that address these issues. In addition, parents’ opinions of how healthy
and fun walking and biking is for their child can indicate the number of families who are
interested in trying active modes. The Student Travel Tally is another important
way to collect data about students’ transportation modes from the National Center for Safe Routes
to School. Teachers collect data in the classroom and
ask students how they traveled to and from school over several days. Getting the evaluation started up front, before
engaging stakeholders, allows School Teams to present relevant data and inform their
decision-making process. This slide shows an example of the hand tally
results that are generated from the National Center for Safe Routes to School’s Data
Center website. The website is user friendly and generates
graphs and tables like the ones seen here. Another way to determine parents’ concerns,
as well as identifying infrastructure needs around a school, is by hosting a school walk
audit or assessment. Understanding and assessing the issues and
barriers facing a school and/or community helps to identify possible solutions and strategies
later in the planning process. Reviewing the existing conditions, policies,
and programs will help to understand what issues need to be addressed through Safe Routes
to School programs and engineering recommendations. The Safe Routes to School Team should collect,
review, and summarize the existing planning documents that pertain to school transportation. You should be able to find the background
information through agencies, including the school district, the City and/or County, and
individual schools. Background information includes:
Existing policies and programs that the school is already engaged in, such as wellness policies
or existing walking and biking programs; The walking and bicycling zones that indicate
where students are eligible for bussing; School and campus properties to understand
the school site and adjacent land uses; The street profile, such as number of travel
lanes and on-street parking; Pedestrian and bike facilities such as sidewalks,
marked crosswalks, and bike facilities like bike lanes or trails; and
Connected routes both on the campus and connecting the school to the surrounding areas, such
as neighborhood paths, unofficial paths or cut-throughs that students are using. Also look for fencing or other barriers that
impede students to access the campus. Also collect pertinent data, including:
School enrollment boundaries; Bus routes and bus policies;
Student addresses for mapping; Crash data for the walk zone around the school;
Existing traffic counts; and Speed limit data. The next step in the Safe Routes to School
planning process is to conduct a walk audit. A walk audit is an assessment of the walkability
and bikeability of the area around the school, and the Team should conduct one for each school
involved in the program. The Planner or team lead should meet with
the rest of the Safe Routes to School team, as well as students, parents, and volunteers
to fill out the walk audit forms. These forms are available through the Minnesota
Safe Routes to School Resource Center website. The Team should observe school arrival and/or
dismissal to understand the transportation issues on campus, such as circulation issues
between school buses and personal vehicles and any potential conflict points. The Team can stay together to observe arrival
and/or dismissal, or break into smaller groups to observe different points around the school. The team should meet after the audit to report
back any findings or observations. It can be helpful to mark up an aerial map
of the area with the group’s findings. Here is one example of the importance of walk
audits in Safe Routes to School Planning. In Spring 2016, the community of Rogers, Minnesota
conducted walk audits. When the Team was observing dismissal at Rogers
Elementary School, the school resource officer was curious to see if any students walked
through a particularly dangerous intersection to get home. When the team reconvened after the observations,
the resource officer was shocked to report that he saw over 50 students walk that way. The school had no idea! Senior school and district staff on the team
could immediately decide that a resource officer needed to be present near that intersection
after school to help students safely cross the street in the future. An optional neighborhood meeting can be held
in combination with the audit or at a separate time to solicit input from a larger audience. Team members can summarize observations from
the earlier audit to the audience and collect comments from community members. This meeting can be somewhat informal. Consider setting up boards in front of the
school during dismissal to talk with parents while they’re waiting for their children. You could set up a table at a sporting event
or at parent-teacher conferences. You increase the likelihood that you’ll
get feedback by going to where parents and students are, rather than asking them to attend
a meeting. The Safe Routes to School Team in St Paul
recently did just that. In Fall 2016, the Team set up boards at dismissal
outside of Chelsea Heights Elementary School, with a team member to discuss Safe Routes
to School issues. Because parents had to gather in one area
outside the school, they were a captive audience to discuss Safe Routes to School planning. The team received some great feedback and
insight. Many of the parents had young children and
likely wouldn’t have been able to attend a more formal open house style meeting later
in the evening. Now that your School Team has collected information
about travel patterns and reached out to the neighborhood, it’s time to use all of that
information to develop strategies and action steps for implementing a Safe Routes to School
program in your community. Using the data, you should be able to identify
specific outreach methods and Safe Routes to Schools activities that overcome barriers
to walking and biking to school. Each strategy should list short and long term
action steps that cover the 6Es of Safe Routes to School: Education, Encouragement, Enforcement,
Evaluation, Engineering, and of course Equity. This slide shows an example of short term
recommendations and action steps from Becker, Minnesota. The first recommendation is to begin a walking
school bus or bike train program, and it identifies parents and Statewide Health Improvement Partnership
(or SHIP) staff as the folks who will potentially take the lead. Strategies should identify potential lead
implementers and key partners to get the strategies going, and show a timeline of when actions
should be taken. The right strategies will be different for
every school and community. The Minnesota Safe Routes to School Resource
Center website is full of great resources and ideas for programs and activities a community
can choose from. Strategies can also include identifying unsafe
areas and, in some cases, identifying which types of infrastructure improvements are recommended. It is important to work with City or County
engineers on the Safe Routes to School Team to develop engineering strategies that can
be built. This year for Bike to School Day, Minnesota
Safe Routes to School sponsored the second annual Bike to School Day Poster Contest,
along with Quality Bicycle Products and Dero. Students were invited to create posters showing
how bicycling makes them feel. Contest materials included a lesson plan that
highlights the benefits of bicycling and provides safety messaging. Students submitted over 400 entries from around
the state. This is an example of a relatively easy action
a school can take, to encourage participation in a statewide poster contest and embed bicycling
into the school culture. The Safe Routes to School Plan brings together
all the work done from previous activities. Minnesota Safe Routes to School can provide
a template for you to use. Make sure to take good photos during the walk
audits, community meetings, and team meetings to use in your Plan. We recommend using the SMART goals framework,
which promotes goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. This helps show a clear path for who, when,
and how partners will implement the recommendations in the Plan. Keep this framework in mind as you work on
all aspects of this planning process and when assembling the final plan. Here are two examples of goals, one poorly
written and one written using the SMART goals framework. “Make kids healthier,” while an important
and worthy aim, is not a specific enough goal that could be evaluated and tracked over time. A SMART goal could say “Promote a Park and
Walk program at Becker Elementary School so that all students get 60 minutes of physical
activity per week by 2020.” This goal is specific, measurable, attainable,
relevant, and time based. A Minnesota Safe Routes to School Plan should
follow the outline shown here. The Executive Summary outlines the key points
in the Safe Routes to School plan. Keep in mind that many people will only read
the Executive Summary, so keep it brief but useful;
The Introduction should introduce Safe Routes to School, outline why the community is focusing
on it, and provide background on the school, community, and Safe Routes to School Team. Include the vision and project goals identified
by the Safe Routes to School team in the initial kick off meeting;
Existing Conditions includes findings from the surveys, walk audit, and assessment;
The Action Plan lists strategies with prioritized short and long-term action steps;
The Implementation Steps should identify the timeline and lead agencies or individuals
who will implement the action plan; The Evaluation Plan is a detailed plan for
measuring progress over time; and finally The Appendices should include all the maps,
survey results, assessment data, Safe Routes to School funding resources, and any other
related materials. In addition to the Executive Summary, it can
be helpful to create a visual summary of the plan. Here is an example of a summary poster that
includes key strategies of each E. For more information and resources, see the
Minnesota Safe Routes to School Resource Center at www.mnSafeRoutesToSchool.org. The Minnesota Department of Transportation
maintains the Resource Center, which has resources about funding, planning, and implementing
Safe Routes to Schools, as well as details about grant opportunities in Minnesota. You can also use the website to find out about
upcoming events, such as Bike to School Day, and download materials to host your own a
walking school bus, bike rodeo, and more! This resource can provide inspiration, information,
and implementation support for your local Safe Routes to School efforts. Finally, contact Dave Cowan, Minnesota Department
of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Coordinator, with any questions related to
funding, planning, implementation or any other resources related to Safe Routes to School. This brings us close to the end of our webinar
#2. Thank you for your time and attention, please
visit us again for additional resources. Goodbye!
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Reynold King

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