Safe Routes to School
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs create safe, convenient, and enjoyable opportunities for children to increase their physical activity by walking and biking to school. SRTS programs and activities are often sustained by parents and schools, as well as by community leaders and government initiatives.
In addition to programming, successful initiatives include the 5 E’s: evaluation, engineering/design, education, encouragement, and enforcement. SRTS programs can be further supported with improvements such as crosswalk additions or enhancements, reduced speed limits, and crossing guards.
Portage County – Safe Routes to School. As a key element of the vision for a county-wide bike/pedestrian plan, SRTS programs were successfully implemented in four elementary schools in Portage County, WI.
Equity in Practice
Recognizing Inequity: Environmental barriers to active transportation, including lack of street lighting, sidewalks, traffic calming features, and crosswalks, are more common in disadvantaged communities, which can hinder Safe Routes to Schools programs. Schools in underserved communities may also lack the financial resources or volunteers to implement programs and associated environmental changes. In rural communities, distances between schools and homes may prohibit walking or biking to school. If programs are only implemented in schools with greater resources, then there is the potential to increase, rather than decrease health disparities.
Advancing Equity: Considered alone, Safe Routes to School programs do not reduce health disparities. However, when targeted toward the communities of greatest need and paired with community design strategies that improve the environment and safety of nearby neighborhoods, streets, and sidewalks, Safe Routes to School programs may help reduce disparities. Rural communities can encourage children to walk to school by instituting “ park and walk ” locations. School districts can also implement Safe Routes to School programs district-wide while targeting resources to the schools most in need of program assistance.
Safe Routes to School National Partnership Resource Center: The SRTSNP Resource Center contains many resources for SRTS programs, including resources on policy development, advocacy, guidance on SRTS for rural communities, and a guide for implementing SRTS in low-income communities.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services Active Community Toolkit: This toolkit walks communities through the many aspects of an active community initiative, from planning to evaluation.
National Center for Safe Routes to School: The National Center for Safe Routes to School is another place to look for toolkits and resources. They offer assessment tools and surveys to assist with planning a SRTS program.
ChangeLab Solutions Resources: ChangeLab Solutions offers an online District Policy Safe Routes to School Workbook, factsheets on minimizing liability risk, and materials on smart school siting.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services Active Community Toolkit: The Active Transportation section of this toolkit has questions that can be used to assess aspects of Safe Routes to School, such as whether studies have been done, whether schools are encouraging kids to walk/bike, and whether walking school buses or SRTS programs are being implemented. The toolkit does not include surveys or walk audits.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Safe Routes To School Toolkit: This toolkit has several different assessments: a student travel survey, parent travel survey, and traffic count form. They are all easy to use and have instructions. It does not assess other aspects of the environment or programs.
EPA Walkability Checklist: This is a useful easy-to-use checklist of neighborhood walkability that can be done with adults or youth.