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Safe Routes to Schools

Health Factors: Diet & Exercise Housing & Transit
Decision Makers: Community Development Professionals Educators Local Government State Government Grantmakers Nonprofit Leaders
Evidence Rating: Scientifically Supported
Population Reach: 20-49% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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Description

Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) is a federally supported program that promotes walking and biking to school through education and incentives. The program also supports city planning and legislative efforts to make walking and biking safer and provides resources and activities to help communities build sidewalks, bicycle paths, and other pedestrian-friendly infrastructure (NCSRTS-History).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased active transportation
Increased physical activity
Improved health outcomes
Increased pedestrian and cyclist safety
Reduced emissions
Reduced vehicle miles traveled

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) increases the number of students walking or biking to school (Chillon 2011, SRTSNP-Hubsmith 2007, Orenstein 2007, Boarnet 2005, NCSRTS 2012, Wendel 2009, McDonald 2014, McDonald 2013, Stewart 2014, Ragland 2014, Hoelscher 2016). Improvements to pedestrian or bicycle transportation systems and environmental design interventions, which can be supported by SRTS, have been shown to increase physical activity (CG-Physical activity). SRTS is a suggested strategy to increase physical activity among students (US GAO-Siggerud 2008, ALBD, WIPAN-Schools). 

Active travel to school is associated with healthier body composition, cardio fitness levels (Lubans 2011), and increases in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) (Bassett 2013). SRTS has a small positive effect on active travel among children (Chillon 2011, Wendel 2009). By improving walking and bicycling routes, SRTS projects in urban areas may also increase physical activity levels for adults (Watson 2008), and may help introduce bicycling in communities where it is not common (Stewart 2014).

SRTS projects, especially sidewalk improvements, can improve pedestrian safety (Ragland 2014). SRTS has been shown to reduce pedestrian crashes and injuries (Dumbaugh 2007), especially for school-age children (DiMaggio 2016) during school commute hours (DiMaggio 2014, DiMaggio 2013).

Replacing automotive trips with biking and walking can reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change at relatively low cost, although the long-term effect on traffic reduction is likely minor (RAND-Sorenson 2008, Salon 2012). Surveys of parents who drive their children less than two miles to school indicate that convenience and time saving are key reasons for driving; SRTS may not be able to address these constraints (McDonald 2009). Safety and security concerns can also discourage parents from allowing students to walk or bike to school (Nasrudin 2013); insufficient or inexperienced volunteers, lack of funding, and difficulties maintaining partnerships can also be challenges for programs in urban or rural areas (Macridis 2015).

In a New York City-based cost-effectiveness study, SRTS saved money over the long term, and was associated with a large net benefit for society (Muennig 2014). Nationally, SRTS programs with public investments in walking and bicycling infrastructure can reduce transportation expenditures for school districts and families. SRTS programs are most cost-effective for schools with a large number of children living within walking distance (McDonald 2016).

Multidisciplinary, collaborative partnerships increase community support, knowledge and problem solving capacity, coordination, and funding opportunities to support successful SRTS efforts (Macridis 2015). 

Implementation

United States

Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) programs operate in all 50 states and Washington DC, in urban, suburban, and rural communities with varying income levels (NCSRTS-History). Every state Department of Transportation (DOT) manages and administers the state SRTS program, and appoints a full-time SRTS coordinator. The level of SRTS implementation varies by state (NCSRTS-State contacts). Several state legislatures have established additional guidelines for allocating federal SRTS funding, as in California, and for incorporating SRTS principles into school wellness policies and transportation plans, as in Massachusetts (NCSL-Shinkle 2012).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) highlights several examples of cities and states with promising SRTS efforts for communities to replicate, including Arlington and Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Portland, Oregon; Florida; and Santa Ana, California (NHTSA-SRTS guide). 

Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WI DOT) oversees project funding for SRTS through the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) authorized in 2012. As of August 2016, $15 million in TAP awards were approved to fund 32 projects for SRTS, bicycle or pedestrian travel, and other similar categories. WI DOT accepts applications for funding annually (WisDOT-SRTS, WisDOT-TAP).

Implementation Resources

AHA-VFHK toolkits - American Heart Association (AHA), Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Voices for healthy kids (VFHK): Toolkits to make the healthy choice the easy choice in the places where children live, learn and play. Accessed on June 16, 2017
CDC-DNPAO data - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Nutrition Physical Activity and Obesity (DNPAO). Nutrition, physical activity and obesity: Data, trends and maps online tool. Accessed on June 16, 2017
ChangeLab-SRTS - ChangeLab Solutions. Safe Routes to School (SRTS). Accessed on May 9, 2017
HOST-PA - Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Coalition. Resources: Physical activity (PA). Accessed on May 9, 2017
LHC-Rockeymoore 2014 - Rockeymoore M, Moscetti C, Fountain A. Rural Childhood Obesity Prevention Toolkit. Leadership for Healthy Communities (LHC). 2014. Accessed on June 16, 2017
NCSRTS - Safe Routes. National Center for Safe Routes to School (NCSRTS). Accessed on May 9, 2017
NHTSA-SRTS guide - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Safe Routes to School (SRTS): Practice and Promise. Accessed on May 25, 2017
SRTSNP-Gavin 2010 - Gavin K, Pedroso M. Implementing Safe Routes to School in low-income schools and communities: A resource guide for volunteers and professionals. Fairfax: Safe Routes to School National Partnership (SRTSNP); 2010. Accessed on May 9, 2017
US DOT-PBIC Sidewalks - US Department of Transportation (US DOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC). Sidewalks and walkways. Accessed on June 16, 2017
WisDOT-SRTS toolkit 2007 - Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). Wisconsin Safe Routes to School (SRTS) toolkit. 2007. Accessed on June 1, 2017

Citations - Description

NCSRTS-History - National Center for Safe Routes to School (NCSRTS). History of SRTS. Accessed on May 25, 2017

Citations - Evidence

ALBD - Active Living by Design (ALBD). Increasing physical activity and healthy eating through community design. Accessed on June 16, 2017
Bassett 2013* - Bassett DR, Fitzhugh EC, Heath GW, et al. Estimated energy expenditures for school-based policies and active living. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2013;44(2):108-13. Accessed on May 9, 2017
Boarnet 2005 - Boarnet MG, Anderson CL, Day K, McMillan T, Alfonzo M. Evaluation of the California safe routes to school legislation: Urban form changes and children’s active transportation to school. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2005;28(2 Suppl 2):134-40. Accessed on May 9, 2017
CG-Physical activity - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Physical activity. Accessed on June 16, 2017
Chillon 2011 - Chillón P, Evenson KR, Vaughn A, Ward DS. A systematic review of interventions for promoting active transportation to school. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2011;8:10. Accessed on May 9, 2017
DiMaggio 2013 - DiMaggio C, Li G. Effectiveness of a Safe Routes to School Program in preventing school-aged pedestrian injury. Pediatrics. 2013;131(2):290-296. Accessed on May 25, 2017
DiMaggio 2014 - DiMaggio C, Chen Q, Muennig PA, Li G. Timing and effect of a safe routes to school program on child pedestrian injury risk during school travel hours: Bayesian changepoint and difference-in-differences analysis. Injury Epidemiology. 2014;1(1):17. Accessed on May 25, 2017
DiMaggio 2016* - DiMaggio C, Frangos S, Li G. National Safe Routes to School program and risk of school-age pedestrian and bicyclist injury. Annals of Epidemiology. 2016;26(6):412-417. Accessed on May 25, 2017
Dumbaugh 2007* - Dumbaugh E, Frank L. Traffic safety and safe routes to schools: Synthesizing the empirical evidence. Transportation Research Record: Journal of Transportation Research Board. 2007;2009(1):89-97. Accessed on May 9, 2017
Hoelscher 2016 - Hoelscher D, Ory M, Dowdy D, et al. Effects of funding allocation for Safe Routes to School Programs on active commuting to school and related behavioral, knowledge, and psychosocial outcomes: Results from the Texas Childhood Obesity Prevention Policy Evaluation (T-COPPE) study. Environment and Behavior. 2016;48(1):210-229. Accessed on May 25, 2017
Lubans 2011 - Lubans DR, Boreham CA, Kelly P, Foster CE. The relationship between active travel to school and health-related fitness in children and adolescents: A systematic review. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2011;8:5. Accessed on May 9, 2017
Macridis 2015* - Macridis S, García Bengoechea E. Adoption of Safe Routes to School in Canadian and the United States contexts: Best practices and recommendations. Journal of School Health. 2015;85(8):558-566. Accessed on May 25, 2017
McDonald 2009 - McDonald NC, Aalborg AE. Why parents drive children to school: Implications for Safe Routes to School programs. Journal of the American Planning Association. 2009;75(3):331-42. Accessed on May 9, 2017
McDonald 2013* - McDonald NC, Yang Y, Abbott SM, Bullock AN. Impact of the Safe Routes to School program on walking and biking: Eugene, Oregon study. Transport Policy. 2013;29:243-248. Accessed on May 25, 2017
McDonald 2014* - McDonald NC, Steiner RL, Lee C, et al. Impact of the Safe Routes to School program on walking and bicycling. Journal of the American Planning Association. 2014;80(2):153-167. Accessed on May 25, 2017
McDonald 2016* - McDonald NC, Steiner RL, Palmer WM, et al. Costs of school transportation: Quantifying the fiscal impacts of encouraging walking and bicycling for school travel. Transportation. 2016;43(1):159-175. Accessed on May 25, 2017
Muennig 2014* - Muennig PA, Epstein M, Li G, DiMaggio C. The cost-effectiveness of New York City’s Safe Routes to School program. American Journal of Public Health. 2014;104(7):1294-1299. Accessed on May 25, 2017
Nasrudin 2013 - Nasrudin N, Nor ARM. Travelling to school: Transportation selection by parents and awareness towards sustainable transportation. Procedia Environmental Sciences. 2013;17:392-400. Accessed on May 25, 2017
NCSRTS 2012 - National Center for Safe Routes to School (NCSRTS). Shifting modes: A comparative analysis of Safe Routes to School Program elements and travel mode outcomes. Chapel Hill: National Center for Safe Routes to School (NCSRTS); 2012. Accessed on May 9, 2017
Orenstein 2007 - Orenstein MR, Gutierrez N, Rice TM, Cooper JF, Ragland DR. Safe routes to school safety and mobility analysis. Berkeley: UC Berkeley, Traffic Safety Center, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans); 2007. Accessed on May 9, 2017
Ragland 2014 - Ragland DR, Pande S, Bigham J, Cooper JF. Ten years later: Examining the long-term impact of the California Safe Routes to School program. Berkeley, CA: Safe Transportation Research & Education Center (SafeTREC); 2014. Accessed on May 25, 2017
RAND-Sorenson 2008 - Sorenson P, Wachs M, Min EY, et al. Moving Los Angeles: Short-term policy options for improving transportation. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2008: Monograph Report 748. Accessed on June 1, 2017
Salon 2012* - Salon D, Boarnet MG, Handy S, Spears S, Tal G. How do local actions affect VMT? A critical review of the empirical evidence. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment. 2012;17(7):495–508. Accessed on June 16, 2017
SRTSNP-Hubsmith 2007 - Hubsmith D, Ping R, Gutowsky N. Safe Routes to School: 2007 State of the states report. Fairfax: Safe Routes to School National Partnership (SRTSNP); 2007. Accessed on May 9, 2017
Stewart 2014* - Stewart O, Moudon AV, Claybrooke C. Multistate evaluation of Safe Routes to School programs. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2014;28(3 Suppl):S89-S96. Accessed on May 25, 2017
US GAO-Siggerud 2008 - Siggerud K. Safe Routes to School: Progress in implementing the program, but a comprehensive plan to evaluate program outcomes is needed. Washington, DC: US Government Accountability Office (US GAO); 2008: GAO-08-789. Accessed on May 9, 2017
Watson 2008 - Watson M, Dannenberg AL. Investment in Safe Routes to School projects: Public health benefits for the larger community. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2008;5(3). Accessed on May 9, 2017
Wendel 2009* - Wendel AM, Dannenberg AL. Reversing declines in walking and bicycling to school. Preventive Medicine. 2009;48(6):513-5. Accessed on May 10, 2017
WIPAN-Schools - Wisconsin Nutrition and Physical Activity Program (WIPAN). What works in schools. Accessed on May 9, 2017

Citations - Implementation

NCSL-Shinkle 2012 - Shinkle D. Bicycle and pedestrian safety: Transportation review. National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). 2012. Accessed on May 25, 2017
NCSRTS-History - National Center for Safe Routes to School (NCSRTS). History of SRTS. Accessed on May 25, 2017
NCSRTS-State contacts - National Center for Safe Routes to School (NCSRTS). Find state contacts. Accessed on May 25, 2017
NHTSA-SRTS guide - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Safe Routes to School (SRTS): Practice and Promise. Accessed on May 25, 2017
WisDOT-SRTS - Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). Safe Routes to School (SRTS). Accessed on June 1, 2017
WisDOT-TAP - Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). Accessed on June 1, 2017

Page Last Updated

May 25, 2017

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