In 1969, about 40% of American elementary school children walked or biked to school. In 2001, we dropped down to about 15%. This is due to a shift in students living more than half a mile away from their school. Not surprisingly, kids getting dropped off in private vehicles went from 15% to 50% over that same time period. (Source: NHTS Data Series)
I just tuned into a webinar by the Institute of Transportation Engineers' on designing safer school site's that work for all modes of traffic (personal cars, bikes, walking, school buses, and public transit). Here's a summary of things to consider when developing a school site design:
Picking a Good School Site for Traffic Operations
- Situate the sight within the neighborhood being served so more kids are within half a mile of the school (half a mile is the limit of a comfortable walking distance). Ideally in the middle of the school boundary so kids are walking from all directions.
- Avoid access from an arterial roadway or other roads with high traffic volumes.
- Seek multiple street fronts so the site can have driveways on two local streets or collectors.
- Locate the driveways so any potential vehicle backups will occur on low volume, local streets.
- Provide bike and pedestrian connections on each side of the site.
School Site Traffic Operations
- Minimize the number of points where kids mix with cars/buses. Avoid pedestrian routes through parking lots and across driveways.
- Provide separate areas for buses and carpool pick-up/drop-offs.
- Provide one-way, counterclockwise traffic patterns so kids are loaded/unloaded from buses or cars right onto sidewalks.
- Locate the bus exit within the site upstream of the automobiles so the buses have priority in getting out of the site. This will reduce overall delay.