Safe Routes to Schools and the Enforcement “E”

During these days of rapid reflection and revision of thinking across all aspects of systemic racism, the Safe Routes to Schools Partnership Tuesday announced the following:

For more than 15 years, Safe Routes to School programs have used the five E’s (Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Evaluation, and Engineering) as their organizing framework. In recent years, we added a sixth E, Equity, to bring the focus towards creating healthy, thriving communities for people of all ages, races, ethnicities, incomes, and abilities. Effective immediately, we are dropping Enforcement as one of the 6 E’s of Safe Routes to School.

safe routes
Logo/cover photo from Safe Routes Partnership website

For those who don’t follow transportation safety and related matters, there has long been a mnemonic use of words starting with the letter “E” to break down the important components of achieving traffic safety. That sometimes tiring labeling history aside, the step by Safe Routes to determine after much community input that the societal costs of law enforcement outweigh the benefits is remarkable and historic.

In an extremely well-written announcement, Safe Routes Executive Director Cass Isidro also adds an “E” and puts it at the front of the “E” line:

Over the coming months, you will see updates to our existing resources to reflect the removal of Enforcement and the addition of Engagement, as well as new guidance on how to support Safe Routes to School programs through this new orientation. Leading with the two most critical elements, the Six E’s of Safe Routes to School are now:

  1. Engagement
  2. Equity
  3. Engineering
  4. Encouragement
  5. Education
  6. Evaluation

Words do matter, and referring to this announcement as “provocative” might strike some as pejorative. On the contrary. Declarations such as this do provoke and what they provoke is change. The system of law enforcement in this country has always been deeply broken, arguably even more so in the years following September 11, 2001. Trying to fundamentally change this system has no chance of happening without provocation.

The theoretical and practical parameters of what eliminating enforcement from traffic safety means are as interesting as they are currently unknown. We’re in unchartered traffic safety waters here, as is true for areas across the societal issue spectrum. Inclusion of voices historically never consulted and far too often excessively targeted by law enforcement will transform our frequently tired and off-point traffic safety conversations (Better Burque raises hand sheepishly here) in exciting, far more meaningful, and vibrantly uncomfortable ways.

It’s about damn time.






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