Safe Routes to School: Practice and Promise

Safe Routes To School (SRTS) projects are popping up all over the country. Enthusiastic parents, teachers, community activists, and health professionals are advocating for changes that get children out of cars and onto their feet and bicycles. The benefits of walking and bicycling, especially getting into the habit as a young person, are compelling. Two United States government agencies have set targets for increasing these activities. The Department of Transportation, in its 1994 National Bicycling and Walking Study, specified two goals for the nation:

  • To double the percentage of total trips made by bicycling and walking from 7.9 percent to 15.8 percent;
  • To reduce by 10 percent the number of bicyclists and pedestrians killed or injured in traffic crashes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2001 established two objectives in its report Healthy People 2010:

  • To increase the percentage of children five to 15 years old, who live within one mile of school and regularly walk to school, from 30 percent to 50 percent;
  • To increase the percentage of children five to 15 years old, who live within two miles of school and regularly bicycle to school, from 2.4 percent to five percent.

As the SRTS concept continues to gather momentum, people have begun to ask:

  • Why do so few children walk or bike to school, and why is this a problem?
  • Is there a "right" way to go about creating a SRTS project?
  • Are there risks in switching the normal car-to-school commute to a walking-and-bicycling parade of kids and adults?
  • How will we know if we have succeeded?

Are these questions you have asked? If you are a policy maker, program planner, provider of funding or administrator, and are faced with deciding how or even whether to support SRTS efforts in your area, then Safe Routes To School: Practice and Promise is for you.

This publication is designed to provide enough information about SRTS programs so those in decision-making positions will be able to determine how to allocate scarce resources and to assure positive outcomes from SRTS efforts. It delves into the history of SRTS, considers risks and benefits, offers examples, and lists supportive agencies and organizations.

  • Chapter One: Safe Routes To School - Why? discusses the need for SRTS efforts.
  • Chapter Two: Safe Routes To School (SRTS) - What Does That Mean? describes the education, encouragement, enforcement, and engineering approaches to SRTS.
  • Chapter Three: Evaluation and Outcomes - How Do You Measure Success? details information on practical evaluation measures you can use to document success. It explains how you can help communities with the critical task of gathering data so that all can learn what works.
  • Chapter Four: Promising Practices - From Whom Can We Learn? describes the SRTS efforts of different types of communities so that you can learn from their successes and challenges.
  • Chapter Five: Supporting Safe Routes To School - Where Do We Go From Here? covers common questions and realistic answers about SRTS.

The Appendices [A, B, C, D, E] include examples of the sorts of assistance local groups need, based on the experience of statewide or regional technical assistance organizations. NHTSA includes a comprehensive listing of SRTS efforts around the world, with contact information. NHTSA offers this guide in support of your work with local activists as you collaborate to make communities safer and healthier for children.

Authoring Organization: 
Center for Health Training, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Resource File: