Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help prevent violence. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Promoting walking and biking to school: Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is an initiative that aims to increase the number of students that walk or bike to school. By encouraging active transportation, SRTS initiatives may improve traffic safety, reduce traffic congestion, improve student health, and reduce transportation costs for families and school districts, among other benefits.

  • Creating safe routes: Comprehensive and integrated SRTS initiatives follow the “Six E’s” framework, which includes: engineering, education, encouragement, engagement, evaluation, and equity. The first “E,” engineering, involves making physical improvements to the streets around and leading to schools to make them safer and more comfortable for walking and biking. Examples of such engineering solutions include lowering speed limits, improving sight lines at intersections, restructuring pick-up and drop-off at schools, and more.

  • Engaging, educating, and encouraging students: As part of a SRTS initiative, local leaders typically engage with students, families, educators, and community organizations while designing, implementing, and evaluating the effort. This may include educational opportunities for students to learn how to safely walk and bike to school, the benefits of active transportation, or other related topics. To further encourage participation, SRTS programs adopt strategies to generate enthusiasm for walking and biking, such as “walk to school days,” forming walking school buses or bike trains, and holding competitions.

  • Evaluating the impact: Part of the SRTS approach is assessing the particular strategies that an initiative has adopted and ensuring that they support equitable outcomes. Often, SRTS initiatives conduct surveys of students and families and track the proportion of students walking, biking, taking the bus, or being driven to school.

  • Building a coalition: As SRTS initiatives take a holistic approach to encouraging active transportation, they typically involve a wide range of partners. These may include school leadership, city or county government, parent/family groups (e.g., parent teacher associations), students, and more. Typically, SRTS initiatives receive financial support through their state Department of Transportation, which receives grant dollars from the U.S. Department of Transportation for SRTS initiatives.

Cost per Participant
Not available

Multiple studies with rigorous designs demonstrate that Safe Routes to School initiatives is a well-supported strategy for increasing active transportation.

  • Form a task force: Effective SRTS initiatives are typically led by a community-wide task force. The task force should include members with direct influence over - or the ability to engage those with direct influence over - city, county, and school district policies. Leveraging this influence, SRTS task forces can guide community discussion and decision-making about strategies to increase active transportation.

  • Identify a coordinator: Over the long-term, SRTS initiatives should identify a coordinator to lead the implementation of the initiative. Especially before significant funding is identified, the coordinator may be a part-time volunteer (e.g., a parent or teacher). That said, providing for a paid coordinator position has several benefits. Paid coordinators typically stay in their role longer than volunteers, can dedicate more time to the effort, and may have more relevant skills (e.g., project management).

  • Develop an action plan: SRTS initiatives should develop an action plan that outlines priorities over several years. By developing this plan in collaboration with community stakeholders (e.g., teachers, students, parents), leaders can ensure that the priorities reflect the needs and desires of the broader community. Effective action plans often include goals, proposed actions, and performance measures for each of the “6 E’s.”

  • Push for policy change: By effecting policy change at the school district, city, and county levels, SRTS initiatives can institutionalize practices that support active transportation. This increases accountability and ensures more consistent program implementation. For example, at the school district level, ensuring safe and practical access via walking and biking may be included as part of school siting or closure decisions. At the city or county level, leaders may incorporate SRTS as part of the development of its comprehensive plan.