Tips for Creating Walking and Bicycling Route Maps

Tips for Creating Walking and Bicycling Route Maps

One of the best ways to encourage more children to walk and bicycle to school is to provide families with the information they need to determine the best routes taking into account both safety and convenience. Once basic safety issues in the area around the school have been addressed, the following tips can help families and schools create maps for walking or bicycling to school.

Example Map 1

Mapping basic information about the neighborhoods surrounding the school can be a great tool for selecting a route and also may be useful in identifying and prioritizing needed pedestrian and bicycling improvements. These maps may be low-tech or high-tech. Sometimes the best maps have simple hand drawn symbols over a commonly used and commercially available map. Maps can also be computer generated which allows for creating more tailored maps thExample Map 2at can be easily updated.

Whatever technology used, route maps should include the following at a minimum:

  • School location (you may also want to consider an inset that shows entrances),
  • Surrounding streets and location of sidewalks and pathways within a reasonable walking or bicycling distance from school,
  • Street names,
  • Landmarks,
  • Traffic control devices (such as traffic signals, stop signs and yield signs) that may affect the routes,
  • Crosswalk locations,
  • Crossing guard locations,
  • Posted speed limits,
  • Designated walking or bicycling routes (if they exist).

Whenever possible, the maps should also show:

  • The schools designated student walk zone,
  • Streets with high volumes of vehicles and/or heavy truck traffic, and
  • Specific areas to avoid or where extra caution is needed such as railroad tracks, four lane roads, drainage ditches, poorly maintained roads or sidewalks, driveways with heavy truck traffic, etc.

Sometimes this information is available from the school district or local planning or traffic engineering department. In some cases it may be necessary to gather more information through a walkabout, bikeabout, audit or other assessment method.

Make sure to keep the map simple and easy to read. The idea is to provide enough information for parents to help their child choose a route to school. Keep the information as objective and informative as possible, (e.g. indicate "heavy truck volumes" versus "dangerous road"). Make sure to include the date the map was created (or updated) on the map itself as well as instructions for parents to select a route with their child. For easy distribution the map will likely be photo-copied on 8 ½ x 11 paper in black and white, so the graphics should be simple and easy to read.

Once the map is finished, send it home with students and post it on the school's Web site. A letter from the school should also be included with information about the school's walking and bicycling program, instructions for using the map to determine the best route, and basic safety guidelines.

Encourage parents to determine the best route for their child. Even if a school designates a specific walking or bicycling route, strongly encourage parents to walk or bicycle with their children to determine the best way to school or where they can join the designated route. Parents should help their children select a walking or bicycling route with the least amount of traffic and intersections. Parents should also reevaluate the route several times throughout the school year to ensure the selected route is still the best route.

For more information on creating walking and bicycling route maps, please visit

Creating route maps can be a great way to start a dialogue about Safe Routes to School. Assessing the walking and bicycling conditions around the school to create route maps provides the added benefit of helping each school identify and prioritize improvements. Make sure maps and assessment feed back into a process for making such improvements.