Schools (K-8) may apply for a walkability audit with the Pennsylvania SRTS Resource Center. This form can be filled out online and emailed back to the Safe Routes to School program (firstname.lastname@example.org), along with the required “routes to school” maps (as explained in the application form).
Expert Assessment of a School's Walking Routes
Walkability audits are a key planning tool that provides schools with the technical assistance necessary to assess walking and biking conditions and create a plan for improving them. Under Pennsylvania’s SRTS program, expert staff is available to lead up to 25 walkability audits at schools (K-8) each year.
This walkability audit process is led by a traffic engineer with the help of a team of local school officials, municipal staff, law enforcement officials, and other community members. After a two-day assessment of existing or potential walking routes, the school is presented with a final report that includes short-, mid-, and long-term recommendations for improving safety and increasing student participation along the walking routes.
Why should my school participate?
Schools that participate in walkability audits are taking an important first step in making their communities safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. The final report presented by the audit team focuses on solutions of varying levels, from low-cost recommendations to infrastructure improvements for sidewalks and crosswalks. The walkability audits also provide an important planning tool that may prove useful when schools and municipalities apply for funding for both infrastructure (capital improvements) and noninfrastructure (education, encouragement, and enforcement) Safe Routes to School projects and activities.
How do I get started?
Schools awarded an SRTS Noninfrastructure Grant are eligible to receive a walkability audit. Other schools may also apply for an audit through the Pennsylvania SRTS Resource Center. If your school is deemed to be eligible for an audit, a representative from the Pennsylvania SRTS Resource Center will work with your school to schedule a two-day site visit by a traffic engineer.
What should I expect at the walkability audit?
The site visit will occur over a two-day period, beginning the afternoon of day one and concluding late morning on day two. The audit team will walk up to three of your existing or potential routes to school and identify barriers that may prevent students from safely walking and bicycling to school along these routes. As part of this assessment, the team will recommend potential solutions to address these barriers. At the end of the assessment, your school will be provided a comprehensive plan of action that describes the barriers and summarizes recommendations for improvements.
Please note: The schedule is tentative and will vary based on an individual school's start and dismissal times.
- Day 1
- 1:00pm » Kick-off meeting with stakeholders
- 2:30pm » Begin assessment of walking routes
- 3:15pm » Debrief at school (site visit team only)
- 4:30pm » Day on concludes
- Day 2
- 7:00am » Begin assessment of walking routes
- 7:45am » Debrief at school (site visit team only)
- 8:15am » Prepare plan for school
- 11:00am » Present plan to stakeholders
- 12:30pm » Site visit concludes
What happens each day during the audit?
Day one begins in the afternoon with a kick-off meeting with key stakeholders (e.g., school and school district personnel, parents, crossing guards, municipal representatives, local police department representatives) led by the traffic engineer. At this kick-off meeting, the stakeholders will be briefed on the purpose of the site visit and will help to gather additional information about the walking routes as needed.
Following the kick-off, the audit team will conduct an end-of-the-day assessment by observing students walking and bicycling home from school. The team will observe student behaviors, driver behaviors, existing infrastructure, and how all three interact. In addition, the team will note parent and school bus driver behaviors as they pick children up from school. After making observations on day one, the team will reconvene at the school and debrief.
On day two, the audit team will conduct a start-of-the-day assessment by observing students walking and bicycling to school in the morning. Often, because pedestrian and vehicular traffic patterns shift between the afternoon and morning hours, the team will notice differences in student and driver behaviors. After this assessment, the team will reconvene at the school, debrief, and assemble a comprehensive plan of recommended action for the school and municipality. The site visit will conclude at the end of the morning with the final presentation of the team’s findings to the key stakeholder group.
What does my school have to provide?
To participate in a walkability audit, your school must provide the following information:
- Site Visit Planning Tool Application - This document asks for information about your school, walking routes to school, school start and dismissal times, and other details necessary for a successful site visit. Your school's SRTS contact person must complete the information requested on this document and email it back to the PA SRTS Resource Center.
- Aerial maps of walking routes - The school must provide aerial map(s) of the neighborhood surrounding the school with the appropriate walking routes identified and labeled. This can be created for free using an online mapping service. The maps must be emailed to the PA SRTS Resource Center along with the Site Visit Planning Tool Application.
- Meeting space - The school must provide meeting space at various times during both days of the walkability audit assessment. Meeting space is needed for the kick-off meeting the first afternoon, team debriefings both days, and final plan preparation and presentation on the morning of the second day.
- Stakeholders group - The school is responsible for identifying and inviting key stakeholders in the community to attend the walkability audit kick-off meeting on day one of the site visit and the final plan presentation on day two. By inviting the right people to participate in the audit, your school will help to ensure that the walkability audit succeeds. You may also increase the chances that the recommended improvements will be pursued and implemented. A list of stakeholders who will be attending the audit meetings must be provided to the PA SRTS Resource Center at least two weeks before the scheduled audit.
May our school conduct its own walkability assessment?
Yes. Conducting a walkability assessment allows a school to assess the status of its walking/bicycling infrastructure and to document any dangerous (or illegal) behaviors performed by motorists or walking students. Although PennDOT provides a limited number of walkability audits through the SRTS program, your school can conduct its own walkability assessment by following the steps below:
- Identify a team leader. This person is oftentimes a local planner or engineer.
- Assemble a team. The leader should assemble a multidisciplinary team that includes (at a minimum) school officials, municipal officials, local law enforcement, parents, and students.
- Assemble information ahead of time. The team leader and the team should identify existing walking and bicycling routes to school and then contact PennDOT and/or the local officials to obtain reported crash or incident data for the areas surrounding the school.
- Hold a kickoff meeting. The team leader should hold a kickoff meeting with the multidisciplinary team. This meeting will serve as an open forum to discuss the most commonly used student travel routes and any physical or perceived barriers along them.
- Walk the routes. The team should break into groups and walk these routes, ideally while students are walking to or from school. As the team members walk, they should look for things that may prevent students from walking safely, and take notes and photos along the way. These obstacles can be infrastructure (missing sidewalks, incorrect signals/signs, etc.) or noninfrastructure (no crossing guards, no planned routes or walking school buses, drivers failing to yield, etc.) in nature. To help with your walking assessment, use PennDOT’s walkability checklist.
- Prepare a final report. After walking the routes, the team reassembles to discuss successes and areas for improvement that were observed during the walks. Observations and photos should be included in the final report, which will summarize all findings. Based on the team’s findings, a list of recommended infrastructure and noninfrastructure strategies for improving safety and encouraging participation should be developed for the short, medium, and long term.
Schools that want to conduct their own walkability assessment may find that the materials available under the Walkability Audit Resources below will provide useful guidance.
Walkability Audit Resources
Walkability Audit Flyer - This flyer provides promotional material about the walkability audit and the assessment process.
Walkability Audit Site Visit Planning Tool Application - A school (K-8) should complete this document to apply for a walkability audit with the Pennsylvania SRTS Resource Center. The application asks for information about the school's current walking environment.
Walking Route Maps - A school (K-8) scheduled to have a walkability audit must provide aerial maps of these routes at least three weeks before the scheduled site visit. The maps must include the school building and identify the routes that are to be assessed during the walkability audit. Maps can be created for free using any of the following online mapping services:
Walkability Audit Sample Final Report - This document shows a sample final report providing an assessment, including recommended improvements, of a school’s existing and proposed walking and bicycling routes.
Walkability Audit Case Study: DuBois Area Middle School – Read how this school addressed deficiencies in its major walking routes by implementing many of the suggestions made in the walkability audit final report.
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