Safe Routes to Suits: Cracking the Liability Lies in Walking and Biking to School

In 2003 the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation intervened in a community where liability concerns caused the local school district staff to ban students bicycling to and from school. Research resulting from this intervention led us to see this as a nationwide phenomenon. Furthermore, as Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs proliferate, we believe their proponents will slam up against the liability wall more and more.

In our intervention, we used tactics that we consider routine parts of our SRTS program. We believe that by using such tactics, well-informed and persistent SRTS operators can knock down liability arguments -- either by presenting the legal facts, rooting out the reality behind the perception, or implementing countermeasures aimed at specific problems.

This paper therefore aims to:

  • Identify common liability concerns and their causes.
  • Describe the roles played by risk managers in school transportation policy.
  • Describe what SRTS proponents have done to address liability.
  • Identify relevant laws and precedents.
  • Identify other tactics SRTS proponents could employ when faced with liability obstacles.
Authoring Organization: 
Chicagoland Bicycle Federation

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