Academic Research Related to Safe Routes to School, Shared Use, and Active Transportation

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership regularly summarizes and updates relevant research in the realm of Safe Routes to School and active transportation.  Why do we care about research?  Research helps us understand problems and solutions when it comes to Safe Routes to School and other physical activity opportunities.  Research tells us why problems like childhood obesity have emerged and explains the differential effects on different racial and economic groups, different geographic regions, and rural, suburban, and urban residents.  Most importantly, research assists us in understanding the most effective approaches to improving the health and well-being of all children and adults. 

Research can also help make the case for Safe Routes to School, shared use, and bicycling and walking investments to legislators, funders, school officials, city officials, and parents. Research helps us understand the scope and impact of our core issue areas on larger related societal issues like childhood obesity, physical activity, academic achievement, traffic congestion, and the built environment.

Our research section contains is divided into topical subsections that investigate relationships between Safe Routes to School, active transportation, physical activity, and:

  • Obesity and health;
  • Academic performance and attendance;
  • How people travel and what affects their travel decisions;
  • Safety for walking and bicycling; and
  • The effects of active transport on air quality and the environment.

Each section starts with a brief overview of key conclusions and a list of research highlights.  Synopses of articles of interest follow, including key points, methodology, and a link to the full article (sometimes behind a paywall).  

In addition to the academic research cited in this section, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership has identified areas for which additional research is needed and a variety of specific research questions.  Continuing to expand the research base for Safe Routes to School will allow for more robust and scholarly analysis of promising trends and best practices.  We welcome opportunities to brainstorm or collaborate with researchers in designing studies that delve into these or other related topics.

If you have academic studies to share for potential inclusion in this research compilation, or would like to share a research idea or opportunity for collaboration, please contact

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Key takeaway:

  • Almost half of children live in communities with policies for land use development incentives to promote active living, but there are disparities in these policies by rural/urban locale.


Regular participation in physical activity and higher levels of physical fitness have been linked to improved academic performance and brain function, including attention and memory.

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Key takeaway:

  • Performance measures directed toward bicycle and pedestrian travel modes are key for evaluating and advocating for active transportation infrastructure and programs.
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This report is a biennial update on national trends related to walking and biking across the United States, active transportation participation, safety, infrastructure, policy, and funding support. This report is intended to promote access to data, measure progress, support policy and advocacy efforts, and connect to health initiatives.


  • The long-term health benefits of physical activity through active travel generally outweigh the health risks of air pollution.

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