Safe Routes to School 101
Safe Routes to School aims to create safe, convenient, and fun opportunities for children to bicycle and walk to and from schools. The goal is to reverse the decline in children walking and bicycling to schools, increase kids' safety and reverse the alarming nationwide trend toward childhood obesity and inactivity.
As the stats bear out, kids today have become less active, less independent, and less healthy. In 1969, nearly 50 percent of all children in the United States (and nearly 90 percent of those within a mile of school) walked or bicycled to school. Today, that number has plummeted to fewer than 15 percent. During the morning commute, driving to school represents 10-14 percent of traffic on the road.
Studies show that Safe Routes to School programs are effective at increasing rates of bicycling and walking to school and decreasing injuries.
Concerned by the long-term health and traffic consequences of this trend, in 2005 Congress approved funding for implementation of Safe Routes to School programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Though there have been policy shifts, Safe Routes to School is still eligible for funding under the 2012 federal transportation bill, MAP-21. Communities use funds to construct new bicycle lanes, pathways, and sidewalks, and launch Safe Routes to School education, promotion, and enforcement campaigns in elementary and middle schools.
At the local level, Safe Routes to School practitioners run education and encouragement programs with families and schools and push for strong municipal and district policies to support safe walking and bicycling. The most successful Safe Routes to School programs incorporate the Six E’s: evaluation, education, encouragement, engineering, enforcement, and equity. At the regional and state level, Safe Routes to School practitioners work to find new funding and ensure proper spending of existing funding for Safe Routes to School. And at the federal level, the National Partnership and its allies maintain a steady voice for policy and funding support in Washington and provide a source of expert help, ideas, and resources for leaders at all levels.