Arlington, Massachusetts: Community Involvement Leads to Success


In 2001, Arlington, Massachusetts, was selected to be one of two cities in the country to participate in a Safe Routes to School pilot program. Arlington began working with the National Park Service Rivers and Tails program and the MassHighway department to start a SRTS program in two elementary schools and one middle school.


Dallin Elementary School, Thompson Elementary School and Ottoson Middle School each received $15,000 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to start their programs. The elementary schools used these funds for various pedestrian and bicycle education and encouragement  programs. A safety training program was taught, an image based newsletter profiling students and crossing guards was distributed, frequent bicyclist/ pedestrian cards were used and a walkability audit was performed to identify problems around the school. Other activities included a global warming awareness program, in which students participated in art and writing contests, and a family activity month, in which different local companies donated food or gift certificates for a drawing.

Ottoson Middle students and parents received a public bus route map, and an orientation program was held for incoming sixth graders and their parents to inform them of safe pedestrian and public bus routes. The SRTS committee also partnered with the middle school’s student action council to develop a volunteer snowshoveling program for students to shovel sidewalks for senior citizens.

Parent and community involvement was important for the success of the pilot study in Arlington. Parent coordinators at each school worked to increase knowledge about the program by talking to other parents and encouraging others to become involved.


After the first year of the program, there was an increase in the number of children walking to and from each of the three schools. Overall, there was a 213 trip per day increase for all of the schools. The number of students walking to Dallin Elementary increased by 12 percent, Thompson Elementary experienced a 10 percent, and Ottoson Middle saw a six percent increase. Since the initial pilot program’s start in 2001, it has expanded to all seven of the elementary schools in Arlington and continues to flourish.


Dorothea Hass
WalkBoston Phone: (617) 232-0104
Old City Hall 45 School St.
Boston, MA 02108