Safe Routes to School
Kids and families can more easily incorporate physical activity into their daily routines if their communities are bike- and wheel-friendly
Physical activity is vital for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, yet the most recent federal survey found that only 26% of high school students were active for the expert-recommended 60 minutes a day on all seven days before the survey. In addition, the percentage of children walking or biking to school declined from 48% in 1969 to only 17.6% in 2014. Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) promotes walking and wheeling to and from school by providing communities with resources to build sidewalks and bike paths, add crosswalks, and improve lighting and signage to ensure safe conditions.
Between 2005 and 2012, the federal SRTS program provided more than $1 billion in funding to states and communities to support infrastructure improvements and education to make it easier and safer for children to walk and wheel to and from school. Subsequently, SRTS was combined with other federal programs designed to encourage walking and wheeling; the Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) program for transportation alternatives provides $850 million annually through 2020 to fund SRTS and related projects.
Strong policies can help children and families eat healthier foods and be active. RWJF offers specific policy recommendations to help ensure more children in the United States have consistent access to healthy foods from the earliest days of life, in order to help them grow up at a healthy weight.
Featured Studies and Resources
“Walk. Bike. Get Fit.” in Arizona
With federal SRTS funding secured by the Arizona Department of Transportation, Kinsey Elementary School in Flagstaff, Arizona, implemented a comprehensive safety education program called “Walk. Bike. Get Fit.” The percentage of students walking and biking to school rose from 6% to 25%.
Investing in Safe Routes
This report reviews the economic benefits of Safe Routes to School, including reducing costs of obesity due to increased physical activity.
Build a Safe Routes Program
In 2019, Safe Routes Partnership published a step-by-step guide that can help your school start a Safe Routes to School Program or strengthen an existing one.
State Policies on Safe Routes to School
Does your state support walking and wheeling to school in ways that are safe and equitable? Not even a fourth of states do.
Children from low-income families are twice as likely to walk to school as children from higher-income families.
A study in New York City found Safe Routes to School infrastructure reduced pedestrian injuries from school travel by 44 percent.
Overall, 34 states have some form of a Complete Streets policy in place.