Safe Routes to School Project

Ithaca Safe Routes to School Project
In the summer of 2012, City of Ithaca staff and Ithaca City School District staff worked together to write an application seeking SRTS funding. The application laid out a plan of infrastructure improvements and non-infrastructure activities to enable and encourage greater levels of walking and biking to school in Ithaca, New York.

The key element to this plan is the establishment of a network of traffic-calmed routes connecting neighborhoods to 2 elementary schools and a middle school. Supporting elements of the plan include school zone improvements, and non-infrastructure activities to build students’ skills and enthusiasm for walking and biking to school.

To implement these improvements and activities, $297,950 was requested in SRTS funding. In the beginning of January 2013, we were informed that we were awarded the requested amount.

Participating Schools
  • Beverly J. Martin Elementary School (BJM) (grades K-5) is located in downtown Ithaca and draws many of their students from the surrounding downtown area, some students from the nearby West Hill neighborhood and some from the Town of Lansing and Village of Lansing (~4-5 miles away). Of the 314 students that attend this school, 94 (30%) are not eligible for busing (because these students live less than 0.4 miles from school, or are “open enrolled”).
  • Fall Creek Elementary School (grades K-5) is located in the Fall Creek neighborhood just north of the downtown area. Students attending this school come from the immediate vicinity (within walking distance) as well as the area to the southwest of the city along the Route 13 commercial corridor (within biking distance). Of the 249 students that attend this school, 164 (66%) are not eligible for busing (because these students live less than 0.4 miles from school, or are “open enrolled”).
  • Boynton Middle School (grades 6-8) draws students from Cayuga Heights E.S., Enfield E.S., South Hill E.S., and Fall Creek E.S. Of the 575 students that attend this school, 147 (26%) are not eligible for busing (because these students live less than 2.0 miles from school, or are “open enrolled”).
kids-bike-to-schoolThese schools were selected for participation in this project because it is feasible for a high percentage of students to potentially walk and/or bike to school in these areas (because of the short distances being traveled). It is assumed that many of the 405 students not eligible for busing are being transported to/from school by private automobiles; which contributes to congestion and safety hazards near the schools which may further discourage other students from walking/biking. An objective of this project is to collect and analyze data regarding student travel behaviors to learn more about barriers to walking/biking and to develop strategies to mitigate those barriers.

Traffic-Calmed Routes
A network of traffic-calmed routes (PDF) will be established primarily to enable and encourage higher levels of bicycling to school; but will also benefit walking students by making it easier and safer to cross streets. Speed humps will be the type of traffic-calming device used to decrease speeding along the routes. To supplement the speed humps, speed limit reduction from 30 mph to 25 mph along the routes, and way-finding signs and pavement markings will be installed.

Students can walk or bike a short distance from home to get to one of the routes and then they can follow the route to their school.

School Zone Improvements
Over the past few years the City of Ithaca has been working to improve the school zone signs at various schools (work has been done at Lehman Alternative Community School and South Hill Elementary School). However, progress has be eliminated due to staffing and funding constraints; SRTS funding will enable upgrades to school zone signs to be implemented quickly at the three participating schools.

Additionally, to provide instant feedback to motorists driving through school zones, vehicle speed display signs are proposed for installation at each of the three schools. These devices also collect vehicle speed data that can be used to evaluate the efficacy of the school zone signs.

Non-infrastructure activities
The ICSD will be developing their non-infrastructure activities in the summer and fall of 2014. Though the exact activities have not yet been determined, the following areas have been proposed.


Event planning

  • Week-long events: Walk-to-School-Week (fall) and Bike-to-School-Week (spring). These events would include the distribution of flyers, collaboration with the PTA and others, prizes for students, and skill-building activities for students.
  • Ongoing events: Walking school bus. This initiative would consist of at least 2 groups of 10 students. Adult (parent and/or teacher) volunteers would take turns as the walking school bus “driver,” gathering participating students along a prescribed route.
School Curriculum
Incorporation of SRTS topics into existing school curriculum based on the currently available NYSDOT SRTS curriculum materials.

Long-Term Planning
Longer-term programming and infrastructure planning to ensure that the program is sustained beyond the grant reimbursement period.