Safe Routes to School—Making a Big Difference Via Small Steps

Schoolchildren and their parents face modern-day challenges in their trips to and from school, including traffic congestion and safety issues. A relatively new Federal program, Safe Routes to School (SRTS), addresses these challenges through three key goals: encouraging children to walk and bicycle to school; improving their safety along the way; and reducing traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution near schools. This article describes the SRTS program, explains how a SRTS program is developed, and provides some examples of successful SRTS programs. The Federal Highway Administration established the SRTS program in 2005 and the National Center for Safe Routes to School (NCSRTS) in 2006. NCSRTS supports the work of State DOTs by serving as a clearinghouse for information on the program. Two types of funding for an SRTS program are available. The Federal SRTS program devotes 70 to 90% of funds to infrastructure improvements and 10 to 30% on noninfrastructure activities such as strategies to encourage students to walk to school. As of April 2009, all 50 States and the District of Columbia were participating in SRTS and had announced a combined total of $355.2 million in Federal funding for State or local SRTS activities. Part of the strength of SRTS is its adaptability to communities of all sizes, including those with limited resources. Infrastucture improvements have included sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lane and curb construction. In addition to making physical improvements, many schools are reinforcing safe walking and bicycling behavior through classroom lessons, skills practice and "walking schoolbuses." NCSRTS is collecting data that will be used to determine the effect of SRTS programs on school-based travel habits and safety. It is too early to evaluate the majority of the funded programs. However, increases in walking and bicycling, reduced traffic around schools, savings in school transportation costs and some positive environmental and health outcomes have been observed.


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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01142403
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, ATRI
  • Created Date: Oct 22 2009 12:03AM