Toole Design recently assisted the City of Philadelphia with a major overhaul of their youth transportation safety materials, as part of the City’s ongoing commitment to Vision Zero. New age-appropriate and highly engaging resources range from a more traditional “Crossing the Street” song to a lesson plan for developing Vision Zero Public Service announcements with high-schoolers.
Every day in Philadelphia, an average of five children are involved in a traffic crash. One child each week is involved in a serious injury or fatal crash. These sobering statistics, highlighted in the City’s Vision Zero Action Plan 2025, recently prompted a comprehensive re-think of the content of youth traffic safety education as well as the role of education as a whole in the push to eliminate fatal and serious injury crashes in the City by 2030. The City has also been a pilot community for the Vision Zero for Youth initiative since 2019.
“Safe transportation skills are essential to kids’ health and wellbeing,” says Tara Woody, Safe Routes Philly Coordinator. “That’s especially true in Philadelphia, where a majority of students walk, bike, or take public transit to school. Safe Routes Philly has reached thousands of students, educators, and caregivers across Philadelphia schools since 2010, and through talking to students, parents, administrators and community stakeholders across the city, we identified new ways to expand transportation safety in and beyond the classroom.”
Diane Lambert, Senior Planner and Associate, led the Toole Design team that helped the City revamp its pedestrian and bicycle safety education programs to launch a new and improved Safe Routes Philly program earlier this month. “Embracing the Safe System approach allowed us to expand the messaging beyond teaching kids to cross the street safely to also address the responsibility of adults in creating a safe transportation system, and to actively promote safe and healthy ways of getting around,” explains Lambert. “We targeted the most common causes of crashes for youth and developed age-appropriate materials, directly linked to state learning standards, that also explicitly acknowledged the responsibility of parents and caregivers in setting a good example.”
New resources include pedestrian and bicycle safety lessons for elementary school students, traffic safety lessons for high school students, and a Safe Routes Philly Activity Book for students in grades 3-5. Lambert adds that, “In addition to meeting learning standards and being appropriate for both classroom and remote learning, the materials encourage experiential learning techniques wherever possible. We’re especially excited to see how the materials for high schoolers are used, as this was new and innovative content.”
More resources will be added in the coming months, including a middle school curriculum and training courses, and pilot testing programs to ease implementation for teachers and students. “It’s also important to remember that the Safe Routes Philly program doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” Tara Woody concludes. “The City’s Vision Zero program is rebalancing traffic safety programs to focus more on road design and vehicle operations and less on traditional education and enforcement programs to try and change behavior. The new Safe Routes Philly materials reflect this shift in emphasis and reinforce the Safe System approach and message.”
Safe Routes Philly is funded by PennDOT’s Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside and the Community Traffic Safety Program (CTSP).