Active and Safe Routes to School Glossary

The field of Active and Safe Routes to School uses a number of terms of its own or drawn from associated fields such as engineering and planning. This glossary is an alphabetical list of terms and words used in Active and Safe Routes to School work, along with explanations of their meaning. Much of the content in this glossary was taken from the Minnesota Safe Routes to School website.

The 5 E’s of ASRTS are: evaluation, engineering, education, encouragement, and enforcement. The most effective Active and Safe Routes to School programs include elements of all of the 5 E’s, described below:

  • Evaluation: Monitoring and documenting outcomes, attitudes and trends through the collection of data before and after the intervention(s).
  • Engineering: Creating operational and physical improvements to the infrastructure surrounding schools that reduce speeds and potential conflicts with motor vehicle traffic, and establish safer and fully accessible crossings, walkways, trails and bikeways.
  • Education: Teaching children about the broad range of transportation choices, instructing them in important bicycling and walking safety skills, and launching driver safety campaigns in the vicinity of schools.
  • Encouragement: Using events and activities to promote walking and bicycling and to generate enthusiasm for the program with students, parents, staff and surrounding community.
  • Enforcement: Partnering with local law enforcement to ensure that traffic laws are obeyed in the vicinity of schools (this includes enforcement of speeds, yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks and proper walking and bicycling behaviors) and initiating community enforcement such as crossing guard programs and student safety patrols.

An Active and Safe Routes to School (ASRTS) program encourages more walking and biking to school through education and promotional activities, as well as engineering improvements to create a safer walking and biking environment.

Active transportation is a means of getting around in a self-powered manner, such as by foot, bike, or wheelchair.

Bike lanes are on- or off-street facilities that provide right of way designated for the exclusive or semi-exclusive use of bicycles. Bike lanes generally prohibit travel by motor vehicles or pedestrians.

A bike rack is a device to which a bicycle can be securely attached to prevent theft. Bike racks are often bolted to the ground and used for short-term parking.

Bike rodeos are events that generally have multiple stations that teach bicycling skills and educate about bike safety and rules of the road. Bike rodeos are fun events that provide children with a basic understanding of effective cycling and encourage children to bike more.

Bike to School Week is a provincial event that gives communities across BC the opportunity to join together in bicycling to work and school during the same week. The event is part of the movement for year-round active and safe routes to school and encourages bicycling to school as a healthy way for kids and families to make their school commute. Bike to School Week events bring attention to safety needs, promote physical activity, help build a sense of neighbourhood, and inspire school spirit.

A bike train is an organized bike ride to and from school. It is supervised by adult chaperones who work with students to assure everyone’s safety and fun. Students may begin riding to school from one designated location, or be picked up at designated stops along the way. Bike trains are fun and promote safe bicycling habits and healthy lifestyles.

A community walkabout is a subjective assessment of sidewalks and roadways conducted by persons such as local officials, planners, interested adults, consultants and children to evaluate walking conditions and potential improvements. Walkabouts can be conducted in neighborhoods around schools to understand how the streets and walking environment in the school zone can be improved.

Crossing guards are people employed or volunteering to supervise and facilitate the crossing of school children at complex, hazardous or congested intersections and crossing locations. Section 179 of British Columbia's Motor Vehicle Act requires that motorists, cyclists and pedestrians obey the instructions of an adult school crossing guard, or students acting as a member of a traffic patrol.

A curb extension, also known as a “bulb-out” or “curb bulge,” is a traffic calming measure that extends the sidewalk width (typically at intersections, but sometimes at important mid-block street crossings) to reduce the street crossing distance and increase the amount of space for pedestrians. Curb extensions also reduce pedestrian exposure to traffic and slow motor vehicle turning speeds at intersections. Curb extensions located along school bus routes should effectively calm traffic, but not impede buses from making the turn.

Reducing the radius of a curb return involves tightening the motor vehicle turning radius at an intersection without extending the curb line into a parking lane or vehicle travel lane. Curb return radius reductions are intended to slow motor vehicle turning speeds at intersection, improve visibility and increase pedestrian safety.

High Visibility Crosswalks employ markings that are highly noticeable to motorist and bicycle traffic and that designate a specific location for pedestrians to cross a roadway. High visibility crosswalks are typically installed in locations that are convenient to pedestrians and visible to motorists.

A public health intervention is an effort (program, event, communication campaign, survey, etc.) that promotes behaviour that improves mental and physical health.

Public Transit or "transit" for short is a form of shared transportation consisting of publicly accessible train, busses or other vehicles. Public transit is often considered a form of Active Transportation as it usually requires walking to a bus stop or train station, most of which are near housing developments and business or industrial districts.

Rectangular rapid flashing beacons are warning beacons used to increase visibility of students and all pedestrians as they cross the roadway at crosswalks that do not have signal controls. The signals are pedestrian-activated, i.e., the signal will only flash if a pedestrian has pushed a button, indicating that they need to cross the street.

A school area is an identified location on the roadway adjacent to a school that extends several hundred feet in each direction and is identified with signs and pavements markings meant to alert motorists to the presence of students on or near the road. A school zone is a school area with a posted reduced speed limit, usually 30 km/h, intended to slow motor vehicle traffic during school days and improve pedestrian safety.

A sidewalk is a path reserved for pedestrians that is separated from other roadway users, typically along the side of the roadway.

A sidewalk buffer is a space between the street and the sidewalk which allows pedestrians more distance from vehicle traffic and increases their level of comfort. Sidewalk buffers increase pedestrian comfort and safety and can also serve as a place for pedestrian “overflow,” especially in areas near schools that often have large groups of walkers.

A special crosswalk consists of overhead pedestrian signs with internal illumination, downlight illumination for the crosswalk, and yellow flashing beacons that will flash alternately once activated. To activate the signal, pedestrians must press the button on the pole. Special Crosswalks are installed at pedestrian and school crossings and are used to alert drivers to the presence of pedestrians. As in any crosswalk, drivers are required to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

A speed feedback sign, either temporary (i.e., “speed trailer”) or permanent, is an electronic sign that shows motorists how fast they are traveling as calculated by radar. Speed feedback signs are effective when they are strategically located at main access points, high speed areas, and in or near school zones.

Speed bumps are bumps in the roadway which slow motor-vehicles in order to improve traffic safety conditions. They are often painted and signed to warn drivers of their presence and improve compliance. Speed bumps are often are typically about 12 inches in length, while speed humps, tables and cushions are longer.

Traffic calming measures are physical improvements designed to increase safety on neighborhood streets by slowing and/or diverting traffic. Common traffic calming devices include speed humps, curb-extensions and traffic circles.

A walking school bus is a group of children who walk to school on designated routes with adult supervision, while picking up kids along the route, just like a school bus. For some neighborhoods, it’s a casual group walk, while others set up a formal plan with adults scheduled to walk on certain days.