Key Safe Routes to School Research

Practitioners implementing Safe Routes to School programs, or other active travel promotion programs, have a large scope of issues to address.

This section is a collection of research that evaluates current Safe Routes to School programs and identifies issues to consider when implementing new programs. Findings from these studies can provide insight into the cost-effectiveness of programs, impact of school siting, and how gender and socio-demographic factors can influence active travel to school.

Also included in this section is academic literature reviewing legislative policies that can provide practitioners with information regarding potential funding opportunities and policy trends that influence active transport initiatives. Many of the articles in this section directly reference Safe Routes to School programs.

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Safe Routes to School programs have shown a 37 percent increase in bicycling and walking where projects have been undertaken. (Stewart, 2014)
  • Specific to Safe Routes to School, introducing a program focused on education and encouragement increased bicycling to school by 5 percent each year.  When programs also incorporated infrastructure improvements like sidewalks, crosswalks and covered bicycle parking, the rate of bicycling and walking improved to between 5 percent and 20 percent (McDonald, 2013).
  • One study reports that the national Safe Routes to School program has the potential to positively influence individuals, communities, and the environment regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status by providing funds to address some of the barriers and improve the ability of students to safely walk and bicycle to school (Martin, et al., 2008).
  • The findings of an analysis of walking and biking to school among low-income and minority youth in the United States has significant implications, reporting that Safe Routes to School programs have the potential to strongly benefit minority and low-income students, especially because many of those students are more likely to live near the school they attend (McDonald, 2008).
  • The odds of walking and bicycling to school are 40% lower in girls than in boys (McMillan, et al., 2006).
  • Results show that children who pass completed Safe Routes to School projects are more likely to show increases in walking or bicycle travel than are children who do not pass by projects (15% vs. 4%), supporting the effectiveness of Safe Routes to School construction projects (Boarnet, et al., 2005).
  • A review of the success of the Safe Routes to School program in Marin County reports a 64% increase in the number of children walking to school, a 114% increase in the number of students biking, and a 91% increase in the number of students carpooling (Staunton, et al., 2003).
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A growing body of research shows that there are three primary domains that influence young people’s active transportation to school: the physical environment, the sociocultural environment, and the safety environment. 

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Key Takeaways: While states define vulnerable communities differently, this study provides an overview of a number of common practices that states employ throughout the Safe Routes to School program process to allocate greater funding to low-income and/or disadvantaged communities.  

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Key takeaway:

  • This study documents the implementation of Active & Safe Routes to School (ASRTS) in an indigenous community in Canada.
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In this study, the Safe Routes to School program was associated with an approximately 23 percent percent reduction in pedestrian/bicyclist injury risk and a 20 percent reduction in pedestrian/bicyclist fatality risk in school-age children (5-19 years) compared to adults (30-64 years). 

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School environments that support active commuting best encourage young people’s participation in different types of physical activities. 

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KEY TAKEAWAYS: The authors produced a standardized method for assessing and visualizing walkability in communities for ease in implementing the evaluation and engineering E’s of Safe Routes to School, consequently reducing CO2 emissions and improving student health. 

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Key takeaway: SRTS has increased walking and biking and improved safety and can decrease health and school transport costs.

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 Increasing walking and bicycling to school has been a national policy goal since Congress created the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program. 

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State Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs provide competitive grants to local projects that support safe walking, bicycling, and other modes of active school travel (AST). This study assessed changes in rates of AST after implementation of SRTS projects at multiple sites across four states (Florida, Mississippi, Washington and Wisconsin).

Evaluation, Report, Research

This report summarized findings and lessons learned to increase proper bicycle helmet use among middle school students, based on an 8 week peer-based program. 

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