Arlington Public Schools Safe Routes to School Grant Funds Crosswalk Flags Near Multiple Schools

      

On the first day of the 2019-20 school year, Arlington Public Schools (APS) opened two new schools and moved four APS programs, resulting in new transportation patterns around a total of five schools and new routes for thousands of students travelling to those schools.

From the moment these changes were approved, APS and Arlington County transportation staff began working with individual schools, APS families and the entire community to anticipate and support transportation needs. Arlington County Police (ACPD) provided input and guidance on the existing transportation conditions, and engineers, planners and administrators convened regularly to address those needs.

With so many changes affecting so many families and their daily commutes, parents and community members raised questions, offered suggestions and worked with APS and County staff to identify areas near schools most in need of attention. To support safe routes to school, County and APS resources were allocated to have new school zone signs posted, flashers upgraded, crosswalks painted (or restriped), parking restrictions put in place, sidewalk links restored, traffic calming infrastructure installed, and signals activated. ACPD took part in community gatherings and planning meetings; deployed variable messaging signs advising motorists of new traffic patterns and school openings; and despite a region-wide shortage, allocated crossing guards for new schools. APS held community walks; met with PTAs, civic associations, and school neighbors; and developed school travel plans and arrival/dismissal procedures for schools to share with families.

But with multiple new neighborhood schools and new school attendance zones, there were still needs to be met. APS Safe Routes to School Coordinator Lauren Hassel was tasked with finding creative solutions to address some of these needs. She had seen bright orange flags in bins at various crosswalks around Arlington County, asked around about how they got there, and discovered See Me Flags. “I had been looking at various supply catalogs and websites hoping to order flags and bins that I could put together for this purpose, never knowing that flag sets were not only already on the market, but that the company was based right here in Arlington.”

APS reached out to See Me Flags with questions and a list of crossings near schools that were most in need of support. See Me Flags founder Grant Yoder scouted out the locations, determining which were viable and testing how the flags would work at each crossing. On the first day of APS’ 2019-20 Safe Routes to School grant, Lauren used grant funds to purchase five sets of flags. About a week before the first day of school, See Me Flags installed crosswalk flags at four locations near Dorothy Hamm Middle School, Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary School, and Swanson Middle School.

APS followed up with principals, staff and families to provide guidance about use of the flags, emphasizing that walkers still need to obey pedestrian rules and encouraging all users to follow the directions on each See Me Flag bin.

The flags have been well-received. After more than a month in place, APS families, staff and community members say these flags, used properly, have improved walker visibility and raised awareness among drivers. The only problem reported to date involves younger students: each child wants to hold their own flag when crossing, leaving none behind for the next group! 

"APS was great to work with and we look forward to working more closely with Safe Routes to School and the APS community in the future. They have a lot of great ideas about supporting student safety on their way to and from school and we are glad that crosswalk flags are part of their solution" said Grant Yoder. "See Me Flags are easy to implement and cost a lot less than other more complex options, so they are a cost-effective tool to include in the transportation tool box.”

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