Safe Routes to Schools Community Working Group

Sustainable Belmont is pleased to support and participate in Belmont’s first Safe Routes to Schools Community Working Group. Kate Bowen (SB), Heather Ross (SRTS) and Heather Drake (SRTS) have connected with stakeholders in the community to create this collaborative group. We are pleased that representative members from the Department of Public Works, the Department of Community Development, the Police Department, the Traffic Advisory Committee, Burbank Elementary School, and Daniel Butler Elementary School have made a commitment to meet and coordinate support of the SRTS program. We look forward to including representatives from the Chenery, Wellington and Winn Brook schools. We also appreciate the support from the School Committee, as members are able to participate.

Safe Routes to School Massachusetts (logo)Safe Routes to Schools is an organization of the Department of Transportation. They foster improved walking and cycling transportation to school-aged children through education, awareness, research and community organizing. They also provide competitive infrastructure grants. Currently, the SRTS program is active to varying degrees in Belmont, with the Burbank School exceptionally engaged due to its status as a ‘walking’ school, i.e., bus transit is not available to this district. SRTS sponsors ‘National Walk to School Day’ every fall.

Belmont, like many Massachusetts towns, is a small, walkable community with school districts created by proximity to schools. As such, families benefit from short commutes to and from school. Despite short distances, Belmont still faces challenges. The Safe Routes to Schools Community Working Group will work to identify and address these challenges with positive solutions that foster safe walking and cycling to and from schools. While SRTS is a school-focused program, its goals can only be reached with broad community support and in turn, the broad community may benefit from improved pedestrian and cyclist travel outside of the school commuting hours.

SRTS helps increase the numbers of students safely walking or biking to schools and improving the health and environment of the communities served. SRTS recently reported positive outcomes, including that the percentage of parents who reported that their child’s school supported walking and bicycling for the school commute rose from 24.9% to 33% [between 2007 and 2012]. Still, the need for increasing walking and cycling grows due to health and environmental concerns. The global population health burden of physical inactivity is said to be nearing that of cigarette smoking.

Even a short, daily 2-mile commute to drop off and pick up children at schools with an average vehicle can cost up to $2700 / yr (incl. maintenance). The carbon footprint of this small commute for the school year can result in up to 320 lb of CO2 exhausted into the environment (results vary with vehicle). Sustainable Belmont supports environmentally-sustainable modes of transportation.