2014 - Research

Impact of the Safe Routes to School Program on Walking and Bicycling

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

  • While previous research has suggested positive program impacts, there have been no large-scale studies with strong research designs. Here we study 801 schools in the District of Columbia, Florida, Oregon, and Texas to assess how the proportion of students walking and bicycling to school changed after the introduction of SRTS programs. By including schools with and without SRTS programs and analyzing data collected over time (2007–2012), we are able to distinguish SRTS impacts from secular trends.
  • We find increases in walking and bicycling after schools implemented SRTS programs. Engineering improvements are associated with an 18% relative increase in walking and bicycling, and the effects of education and encouragement programs are cumulative. Over the course of five years, these education and encouragement programs could lead to a 25% relative increase in walking and bicycling.
  • Takeaway for practice: Planners should work to prioritize capital improvements that improve non-motorized access to school and revise comprehensive plans and subdivision regulations to ensure that new development supports access to school.

Noreen C. McDonald RLS, Chanam Leec, Tori Rhoulac Smith, Xuemei Zhuc & Yizhao Yange. Impact of the Safe Routes to School Program on Walking and Bicycling. Journal of the American Planning Association 2014;Sept.

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Authored by: 
Noreen C. McDonald RLS
Chanam Leec
Tori Rhoulac Smith
Xuemei Zhuc & Yizhao Yange