Back-to-school season is here. Let’s embrace the opportunity to walk and bike to school this fall, fostering healthy habits that set the tone for a successful academic year.

Walking and biking are more than a means of reaching school; they’re pathways to a world of benefits beyond the classroom including health benefits from physical activity, mental clarity and cultivate independence that lasts well beyond the morning commute.

Pave the Way to Safe Journeys

Students need a safe walking and bicycling environment that prioritizes their well-being; therefore, prioritizing safety is crucial. Children are some of our most vulnerable road users and drivers are responsible for watching out for children walking, bicycling, and crossing roads. By law, a driver has a duty to exercise “due care for the safety of any pedestrian” upon a roadway (N.J.S.A. 39:4-36).

It’s vital for drivers to understand their role in creating a safe environment for students:

  • Slow Down, especially in School Zones

Focus on improving safety in and around school zones, particularly by managing vehicle speeds. The Safe System Approach is a comprehensive approach to road safety that aims to eliminate fatal and severe injuries on the road network. It recognizes that human errors can and will occur, but the road system should be designed and managed to ensure these errors do not result in severe consequences.  Learn more in the New Jersey School Zone Design Guide.

By NJ Title 39 law, school zone speeds are limited to twenty-five miles per hour, when passing through a school zone during recess, when the presence of children is clearly visible from the roadway, or while children are going to or leaving school, during opening or closing hours. (N.J.S.A. 39:4-98)

  • Pass People Safely on the Roads            

New Jersey’s Safe Passing Law aims to prevent the near misses, injuries, and deaths that can occur when motorists pass cyclists, pedestrians, or other vulnerable road users. Drivers are required to use “due caution” whenever they encounter vulnerable people on the road, meaning:

  • Drivers must move over a lane (if there’s one to move into) while following all current no-passing and no-speeding laws.
  • On a single-lane road, drivers must provide a distance of at least 4 feet to pass a vulnerable road user safely.
  • If 4 feet is not possible, drivers must slow to 25 mph and be prepared to stop until they can pass safely without endangering those sharing the road.

Come Together as a Community

Let’s stride forward, knowing that each step, each pedal stroke, contributes to a safer, more harmonious journey for all. Here’s how we can achieve this together:

  • Collaborate with schools and local authorities to evaluate walking and biking routes to schools and make improvements for safety.
  • Ensure crosswalks, traffic calming features, and well-maintained sidewalks are in place.
  • Advocate for the Safe System Approach with lowered speed limits within school zones by installing visible speed limit signage, traffic calming infrastructure, radar feedback signs, and school zone letters painted on the roadway.
  • Organize engaging events like Walk and Roll events and bike buses to create a positive atmosphere around walking and biking and create awareness about the NJ Safe Passing Law.

Contact your Safe Routes to School Regional Coordinator

  • Safe Routes Regional Coordinators from eight Transportation Management Associations (TMAs) throughout New Jersey are ready, willing, and able to offer FREE technical assistance in Safe Routes programs in communities from all 21 counties.
  • Learn how to get started and implement safe Walking and Rolling initiatives in your school.
  • Find your local SRTS Coordinator.

Welcome back to school, New Jersey—may your travels be safe, fulfilling, and empowering.