children walking to school on sidewalk

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

The Safe Routes 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 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

The meaning of livable streets to schoolchildren: An image mapping study of the effects of traffic on children’s cognitive development of spatial knowledge

Key takeaway:

  • This study examines how traffic exposure impacts children’s development of cognitive spatial knowledge. Children who actively commute and experience less traffic exposure have better health outcomes, perceptions of their neighborhood, and spatial knowledge.