Walk to School
Since 1999, a collaborative effort of several County government agencies, Arlington Public Schools, and a number of student and parent groups, have made some significant progress towards encouraging students to walk and bicycle to school.
Walk Zone Maps
Arlington Public Schools posts elementary and middle school "walk zone" maps on their website. Use them to plan the best walking route to your school based on locations of traffic signals, stop and yield signs, crosswalks, and crossing guards.
UPDATE AS OF AUGUST 31, 2012:
Arlington Public Schools has taken down their Walk Zone maps temporarily. They plan to update the walking maps that were originally displayed online to more accurately depict the boundaries of the official "school walk zones" and other traffic changes in school communities. Arlington Public Schools will be updating the maps to reflect the walk zones and traffic changes more accurately and will re-post (and WalkArlington will link to) them as soon as they have been revised.
Once re-posted, these maps can be used to plan the best walking route to your school based on locations of traffic signals, stop and yield signs, crosswalks, and crossing guards.
Walk to School Resources
If you’re looking for tips and resources on walking and biking to school, look no further than these helpful websites:
Arlington Public Schools Safety Tips for Walking to School or the Bus Stop
International Walk and Bike to School Day Website Resources
Walk Friendly Community/Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center Website Resources
(scroll down to Education and Encouragement and Safe Routes to Schools)
Safe Routes to Schools
Arlington's approach to school transportation is modeled on "Safe Routes to Schools," a program that has taken hold across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Arlington quickly recognized the relevance of "Safe Routes" to our community and built an initiative centered around the following areas:
Although Safe Routes to Schools is a year-round program, Arlington joins with many other communities internationally each year in observing Walk to School Day during the month of October. Each year, Arlington Public Schools uses this occasion to keep Safe Routes in the consciousness of all APS parents and students by sending home a letter from the Superintendent reminding families of the safest routes to their particular school. Parents may also receive a walking route map and bus route map from their children's school. Families are encouraged to walk to school together at least once to discover the best route and to discuss safety issues such as looking both ways at intersections, staying on well-lit pathways, and handling potentially dangerous situations.
A core element of the program is the evaluation of existing safety around all 36 Arlington County schools and programs, and the engineering (design) and construction necessary to remedy the problems the evaluations uncover.
Early in the program, a team from the Arlington Police Department and Department of Public Works met with principals and other administrators to conduct safety evaluations of conditions at each school.
The school site visits identified more than 200 physical measures that were needed near the schools. Many of the improvements involved improving signage and markings at crosswalks and in school zones. Some involved adjustments to School and County operating policies and matters including snow removal, on-street parking and traffic signal timing.
Some of the prescribed remedies could be quickly and inexpensively attended to - and they were. These included, for example, the installation of new school zone flashing signals at about 10 schools; the relocation of parking and drop-off zones and clearance of overgrown vegetation at many. The Police Department, based on the evaluation, also initiated the use of crossing guards at all four of the County's middle schools. The guards were also given additional resources, such as cell phones, to help them with traffic control and to report potential dangers.
A list of longer-term projects also was developed--primarily traffic calming measures. All told, over one and a half million dollars of County funds have been directed to the Safe Routes to Schools projects. As of March 2006, all but a handful of the 27 planned street improvements (including the construction of new sidewalks, pedestrian refuge islands and curb extensions or nubs) have been completed. Visit the Safe Routes to Schools projects page for details. Implementation of additional projects will take place as funding is allocated, or as new schools are built or renovated.
In short, Safe Routes concepts have taken hold in Arlington County, and are very much a part of how the County's streets, sidewalks and school properties are designed and built.
Policies that address pedestrian safety issues are critical but only effective where enforced. In Arlington, enforcement efforts by County Police and Sheriff's Departments have focused on speeding, illegal turning, illegal parking, and security near County schools. The County's "speed trailers," which provide drivers with visual readout of their actual travel speeds, have been employed more frequently near schools, reducing the incidence of speeding on many roads.
The final element of the Safe Routes to Schools project is encouragement. Through Arlington Public Schools curricula and collaboration with WalkArlington, BikeArlington, FitArlington, the Car-Free Diet, AIRE, and other County partners, students in Arlington Public Schools learn about how walking and biking to school provides them with healthy exercise and greater awareness of their environment. They also learn that reducing the volume of student drop-off traffic at school leads to greater safety for everyone.