Tigard Police Play Key Role Promoting Walk and Bike to School Activities
A long line of cars regularly spills out from the parking lot at Templeton Elementary School onto Murdock Street as parents wait to pick up their children. During drop-off and pick-up times, drivers frequently attempt to circumvent this gridlock by veering into the oncoming traffic lane or engaging in other dangerous maneuvers.
“The problems have been rampant at Templeton,” says Tigard Police Officer Travis Doughty. “We knew if we could get more kids walking and biking with a Safe Routes to School program, we could reduce some of the congestion.”
As school resource officer, Doughty has participated on the Safe Routes to School project team for several years along with the Templeton Elementary principal, a school district representative, parents and City of Tigard staff members including a Senior Transportation Planner and Safe Routes to School Coordinator.
One of the main goals of Safe Routes to School is to encourage active transportation—walking, rolling and biking—especially focusing on the students living near the school. However, there are barriers in Tigard that can pose risks, such as gaps in sidewalks, drivers who fail to stop at crosswalks or kids engaging in risky behaviors such as running across the street mid-block. This is where Safe Routes to School’s emphasis on educational campaigns, enforcement and infrastructure improvements can be especially effective.
For Templeton, the team mapped out safer paths to get to school; they also identified barriers along the route. In addition, the city made some infrastructure improvements such as a speed reduction on SW Sattler Street, from 35 to 25 mph, and the installation of raised crosswalks.
On walk and bike to school days, parents, school officials, students, police officers and the Safe Routes to School Coordinator come together at a meeting spot to bike, walk or roll to school. Doughty often monitors traffic activity at crosswalks along the route. “Just having an officer there, changes behavior,” he notes. During the school year, Doughty refers ongoing traffic safety problems near his assigned schools to Tigard Police’s Traffic Safety Unit, which conducts speeding, distracted driving and crosswalk enforcement. The unit’s efforts are geared toward changing drivers’ behaviors, which is especially critical around schools.
Safe Routes to School plays an important role in educating and encouraging students to walk, roll or bike to school and removing barriers, including influencing driver’s behavior, so that it is safe to do so. Fortunately Officer Doughty has already provided input into the plans for the redesign of Templeton Elementary School, ensuring that the remodel will factor in public safety and Safe Routes to School philosophies.