Children deserve safe places to walk and bike
—starting with the trip to school.

By starting with children and the trip to school, communities become safe places
for everyone to walk and bike.

By creating safe places for everyone, communities take a major step towards meeting the national goal of ending traffic deaths on roads.

 

What we believe

We at the National Center for Safe Routes to School (National Center) believe in the importance and joy of safe walking and biking. We provide ways for communities to get started and offer the best information available to make the future they envision a reality.

We recognize the value of having a chance to try something new—like walking to school!—and have seen how events, such as Walk to School Day, can bring elected officials and community members together to commit to improving safety for all. We also know how creating walkable and bikeable places enhances an entire community’s quality of life. At the National Center, we coordinate Walk to School Day and Bike to School Day in the USA to help communities create the momentum needed for lasting change.

Our work uses research-based evidence to highlight what works and why, and we translate this research into education, professional development tools and training to provide communities the technical support they need to make community-enhancing decisions.

 

What we do

Walk to School Day and Bike to School Day

The National Center is the coordinating organization for Walk to School Day held every October and Bike to School Day held each May. These events are used to encourage families to celebrate the benefits of walking and biking and to increase local leader commitment and visibility for traffic safety and community quality of life. Each year these events break records for participation. Most event coordinators report that their events led to changes to policies or the physical environment—the kinds of changes needed to support safe walking and biking every day, not just for special events. Visit the Walk and Bike to School website to learn more, register an event, or see schools that are already participating.

Vision Zero for Youth

In 2015, the National Center saw how Safe Routes to School could inform communities’ Vision Zero efforts. We launched the Vision Zero for Youth initiative, which builds on how cities and communities across the USA are taking a bold lead in setting ambitious goals to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries and calling it Vision Zero. A growing group of these cities focus on improving safe walking and bicycling in school zones and other places where youth are present. Starting with youth also can be the spark that creates community support for a broader Vision Zero program.

The Vision Zero for Youth initiative encourages communities and their elected officials to focus safety improvements and efforts to slow traffic speeds where children and youth travel. Find out more about Vision Zero for Youth and see a menu of actions for addressing the issues that a community may be facing.  

Safe Routes to School

Safe Routes to School programs aim to make it safer for students to walk and bike to school and encourage more walking and biking where safety is not a barrier. Transportation, public health and planning professionals, school communities, law enforcement officers, community groups and families all have roles to play using education, encouragement, engineering (changes to the physical environment) and enforcement to meet a local community’s needs. Traditionally underserved communities deserve particular attention, in part because they tend to have more pedestrian and bicyclist injuries. Data collection is critical to the planning, implementation and evaluation of programs.

From 2006 to 2016, the National Center developed resources, provided technical assistance, and conducted marketing and program evaluation for the Federal Safe Routes to School program. The National Center continues to host the original Safe Routes to School Clearinghouse website containing resources, reports, tools and the Safe Routes to School Guide.

Research and Evaluation

In 2006, the National Center developed a centralized data collection and reporting system to understand and evaluate the uptake of the Federal SRTS Program and look for changes in walking and bicycling participation. From 2007 – 2016, the National Center provided data processing services to all schools that collected school travel data using its instruments. This provided the opportunity to create a nationally standardized means of benchmarking and evaluating SRTS practice and resulted in trend reports and analysis of program reach. The travel patterns reported in 2016 by the National Center’s study of 720,000 parent surveys from 6,500 schools show a promising upward trend: walking to and from school increased from less than 14 percent to more than 17 percent of all school trips between 2007-08 and 2014. Additionally, in 2015, the National Center’s analysis found that low-income communities were well represented in SRTS funding. Most recently, the National Center examined the role of child safety and Vision Zero programs in six US cities.

Tools and Training

As part of support for the Federal SRTS Program, the National Center developed a menu of online and in-person training and technical assistance options with the purposes of building consensus, identifying issues and solutions, supporting equity and prioritizing needs. The National Center trained more than 262 instructors who taught the SRTS National Course across the country with the goal of bringing stakeholders together and providing quality information and tools to use to make decisions about the future of their communities. A peer exchange program enabled state leaders to connect with others with similar issues or solutions. A tool developed with the Institute of Transportation Engineers enabled communities to prioritize locations for safety infrastructure improvements. Today the National Center is focusing on the development of training and tools to increase local capacity. Our goal is to share with local elected officials how communities are realizing the health and safety benefits of making walking and bicycling safe, appealing options and to hear how communities are making it happen.

 

School Data

The National Center provides a data system for local, regional, and state SRTS partners to enter and view data collected using the standardized Student Travel Tally and Parent Survey questionnaires. Use of the data system is free and available to any school. The system will generate summary reports to make it easy to share findings with community stakeholders and others interested in understanding walking and biking rates for students.

 

About Us

Our History and Funding

The National Center for Safe Routes to School is part of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC), which in 2016 received funding from USDOT to lead the Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety, a National University Transportation Center. We work closely with the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC), which is also part of HSRC and serves as the US Department of Transportation’s clearinghouse for pedestrian and bicycle research and tools. The National Center was established in 2006 when HSRC was selected to serve as the Federal Highway Administration’s Safe Routes to School Clearinghouse. The National Center is applying what we have learned during our ten years of serving as the clearinghouse as we broaden our initiatives. This experience informs the thinking behind our framework for advancing the larger goals of Vision Zero. Our Vision Zero for Youth initiative was launched with support from the FIA Foundation and the US Department of Transportation. Our SRTS funders have included the Federal Highway Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Schwinn, Clorox Greenworks, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Safe Routes to School National Course, developed by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center and maintained by the National Center, was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Highway Administration, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  

Contact us

Nancy Pullen-Seufert
Center Director
pullen@hsrc.unc.edu

Seth Lajeunesse
Associate Director
lajeunesse@hsrc.unc.edu

Lauren Marchetti
Senior Advisor
marchetti@hsrc.unc.edu

Stephen Heiny
Project Coordinator
heiny@hsrc.unc.edu

  Colleen Oliver
Communications Manager
oliver@hsrc.unc.edu
919-962-7769