We’ve Got You Covered: Geographic-Specific Research

kelechiSince Safe Routes to School became a federally funded program, it has experienced tremendous support nationwide. Parents are encouraging more physically active lifestyles. Students are engaged in more walking and bicycling to school. Schools and local governments are establishing policies and infrastructure that enable safe walking and bicycling.

Scholars are also contributing to the success of this movement. As researchers examine Safe Routes to School programs in different geographic areas, scholars have contributed to the diffusion of Safe Routes to School knowledge and innovations across the country. As a result, no matter where you live, there is likely a study that has examined some area-specific concern that you currently may be grappling with.

For example, because of the higher prevalence of obesity in America’s rural areas, Rodriguez and colleagues (2011) sought to understand the impact of physical activity levels on obesity prevalence in these areas. They were able to conclude that reduced physical activity appears to drive the disparity in obesity in the rural population, and thus recommended that physical activity in and outside of school should be initiated in these communities to help abate the prevalence of obesity in adolescents. A study specific to walking to school conducted by Dalton and colleagues (2011) examined the impact of the built environment on rates of active travel to school in two primarily rural states.

In another study, Falb and colleagues (2007) studied Georgia, a southern state that has seen relatively rapid growth. They set out to estimate the percentage of children in Georgia who live within a safe and reasonable walking distance from school and to identify demographic, school and neighborhood connectivity characteristics associated with the potential to walk to school. In so doing, they were able to make generalizations not only about Georgia, but also about states that had similar growth patterns as that of Georgia. Scholars concluded that high population density, small school enrollment size and high street connectivity were associated with higher percentages of potential walkers. Furthermore, while few children lived within a safe and reasonable walking distance, this did not reduce how much students valued walking to school. To increase this low percentage of students who walk, the authors recommended educational efforts and changes to the built environment.

Just a few years ago, there was little guidance on how to run a successful Safe Routes to School program. Today, a variety of studies conducted in local and regional settings across the country provide Safe Routes to School advocates with proven strategies for success. More information on this topic can be found on the Practitioner Information page of our website.