September 10, 2002 marked the beginning of Delaware’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program when state SRTS legislation was signed into law. In May 2004, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) established a SRTS pilot program that provided 100 hours of state-funded consultant support to assist four schools in creating SRTS plans and implementing short-term measures. The SRTS organizers learned many lessons from this pilot program, most notably the importance of establishing one point of contact per school and the need for parental involvement.
In June 2006, DelDOT initiated the first round of SRTS funding. Delaware accepts applications on a rolling, first-come, first-serve basis, with no formal application period, round or cycle. DelDOT incorporated several innovative elements into the application process to ensure the long-term sustainability of the funded projects. First, there are specific requirements to be met before applying. A group representing different aspects of the community must submit the application, and in it, identify the safety hazards and current and potential pedestrian and bicycle routes. The group also must be comprehensive with activities covering each of the five Es (education, encouragement, engineering, enforcement and evaluation.) By having initial application requirements, DelDOT created a streamlined application process that allows funding for individual projects to be available sooner.
Aside from the program’s Web site, DelDOT’s formal marketing of the SRTS program began in May 2006 with a kick-off event held at a local school. Following this event, all of the elementary and middle school principals in the state received an introductory letter and copies of the Program Guidelines and Program Sourcebook. DelDOT used Walk to School events as a chance to promote SRTS. At these events, there was media coverage, banners, stickers and ID tags promoting the program. Also, DelDOT worked closely with school districts to encourage participation in the program through training seminars and presentations. As a result of this comprehensive marketing and training effort, the number of schools interested in the SRTS program has increased along with the community’s support.
DelDOT has established several influential partnerships, which enable the program to have far-reaching benefits throughout the state. By working with other state-wide governmental agencies like the Department of Education, DelDOT can assist schools in implementing programs aimed at improving the health and well-being of children. Also, DelDOT works on a new campaign, the “Campaign to Make Delaware’s Kids the Healthiest in the Nation,” that was started by the non-profit Nemours Health and Prevention Services.
Delaware Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 778 Dover, DE 19903