Health Behaviors Tobacco Use Diet & Exercise Alcohol & Drug Use Sexual Activity Search Policies & Programs

Display All Policies & Programs

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

Is this program or policy in use in your community? Tell us about it.


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

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased active transportation
Increased physical activity
Improved health outcomes
Reduced injuries
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). Establishing 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 and cardio fitness levels (Lubans 2011). 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). SRTS has been shown to reduce the incidence of pedestrian crashes (Dumbaugh 2007).

Replacing automotive trips with biking and walking can reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and emissions at relatively low cost, although the long-term effect on traffic reduction is likely minor (RAND-Sorenson 2008, Salon 2012). Surveys of parents driving their children less than two miles to school indicate that convenience and saving time prompt the behavior; SRTS may not be able to address these parental constraints (McDonald 2009).


United States

All states have SRTS coordinators as part of their state Department of Transportation (DOT). The level of SRTS implementation varies by state (NCSRTS).


In 2008, Wisconsin received almost $2.5 million in SRTS funding; thirty-nine Wisconsin projects were funded in this year: twenty-one implementation and eighteen planning projects (SRTSNP-WI).

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 February 4, 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 February 2, 2017
ChangeLab-SRTS - ChangeLab Solutions. Safe Routes to School (SRTS). Accessed on February 16, 2016
HOST-PA - Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Coalition. Resources: Physical activity (PA). Accessed on March 9, 2017
LHC-Rockeymoore 2014 - Rockeymoore M, Moscetti C, Fountain A. Rural Childhood Obesity Prevention Toolkit. Leadership for Healthy Communities (LHC). 2014. Accessed on March 1, 2016
NCSRTS - Safe Routes. National Center for Safe Routes to School (NCSRTS). Accessed on March 1, 2016
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 November 9, 2015
WFC-Resources - Walk Friendly Communities (WFC), Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. Resources. Accessed on March 3, 2016

Citations - Evidence

ALBD - Active Living by Design (ALBD). Increasing physical activity and healthy eating through community design. Accessed on December 1, 2015
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 December 7, 2015
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 December 7, 2015
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 January 20, 2016
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 March 1, 2016
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 March 3, 2016
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 March 3, 2016
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 March 14, 2016
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 May 24, 2016
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 November 24, 2015
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 24, 2016
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 February 27, 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 November 19, 2015
Wendel 2009* - Wendel AM, Dannenberg AL. Reversing declines in walking and bicycling to school. Preventive Medicine. 2009;48(6):513-5. Accessed on November 18, 2015
WIPAN-Schools - Wisconsin Nutrition and Physical Activity Program (WIPAN). What works in schools. Accessed on January 20, 2016

Citations - Implementation

NCSRTS - Safe Routes. National Center for Safe Routes to School (NCSRTS). Accessed on March 1, 2016
SRTSNP-WI - Safe Routes to School National Partnership (SRTSNP). Wisconsin information. Accessed on November 9, 2015

Page Last Updated

September 17, 2015

* Journal subscription may be required for access.