Education means teaching children, their families and community members about the broad range of transportation choices that are available, instructing them in important lifelong bicycling and walking safety skills and launching driver safety campaigns in the vicinity of schools.
While education dovetails with engineering and enforcement, it is most closely linked to encouragement strategies. For example, children may learn pedestrian and bicyclist safety skills and then get the chance to join a mileage club that rewards them for walking or bicycling to school. You may choose to focus on teaching students to safely and confidently walk and bicycle, educating parents on the health benefits of active transportation, or developing walk and bike to school route maps. You can develop a program based on a model from the Education Program Matrix (PDF, 331 KB) or create your own.
Before beginning encouragement strategies, children should receive pedestrian and bicyclist safety education. Sometimes education strategies need to begin quickly. For example, in areas with unsafe routes where children are already walking or bicycling out of necessity, education is urgently needed to reduce the risk of injury to children until other measures can also be put into place.
Examples of Education Programs
- Bike rodeos led by school staff or local police and fire departments. They are held across the state at community events.
- Walk! Bike! Fun! has been used in the classroom, at after school programs and as part of community education programs.
- Classroom Safe Routes to School education activities are common across the state. Examples include students mapping their own walking routes as a class project and teachers using bicycles to teach physics lessons.
- Earn a bike programs and bike mechanic skills are also taught in after school bike clubs and community education programs across the state. Many schools partner with a local bicycling education organization or a League Cycling Instructor.
Guiding Principles for Safe Routes to School Education
Following these principles from the National Center for Safe Routes to School will help make the most of your education efforts:
- Know your audience.
- Safe Routes to School education efforts may be directed at students, their parents, drivers and neighbors that live near the school.
- Some sub-groups may require particular attention, such as families who do not speak English as a first language; individuals with vision, hearing or mobility impairments; and families with low-incomes.
- Consider how children and adults learn best. Children benefit from a combination of educational methods such as group activities, hands-on skill building and discussion, while adults learn best when they feel the topic is relevant to them.
- Get the timing right.
- Pedestrian and bicyclist safety education should occur in advance of an encouragement activity, such as a Walk or Bike to School Day.
- The beginning of the school year in the fall is a good time to communicate with students and their families about arrival and dismissal procedures, and provide tips for safe walking and bicycling that can be practiced throughout the year.
- Practice makes perfect.
- Many of the pedestrian and bicyclist safety skills that children need cannot be taught solely by verbal instruction; they also require practical experience. Hands-on activities such as simulated street crossings and bicycle handling drills provide children with the opportunity to watch and apply safety skills.
The Arrowhead Regional Development Commission implemented the Helmet Hero Program in 2007 with the goal of reducing dangerous bicycling behavior by teaching youth to ride safely and effectively. The program allows third grade students throughout northeast Minnesota to receive 30-45 minutes of in-class instruction on bicycle safety, as well as receive a helmet at no charge. Rewards are then given to students seen using their helmets.
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