Safe Routes to School (SRTS)
Multiple Federal agencies are working to ensure that when children travel to and from school this year, they do so in a way that is safe and healthy. The Department of Transportation (DOT) operates the Safe Routes to School Program, which helps make walking and biking to school safe and appealing for children and youth. Safe Routes to School is well-aligned with several other Federal initiatives, such as the First Lady’s Let’s Move! campaign against childhood obesity, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) efforts to promote physical activity and fight obesity through active transport to school.
The purpose of Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is to enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school; to make walking and bicycling to school safer and more appealing; and, to facilitate the planning, development and implementation of projects that will improve safety, and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity of schools. Each State receives an annual apportioned amount of Federal funds (based on the enrollment of elementary and middle schools), which can be used to fund a State SRTS Coordinator and implement both infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects. More than 11,371 schools across the U.S. participate in the program.
SRTS supports capital investments, such as building sidewalks and crosswalks, educating students and the broader public, working with law enforcement, and providing other support for walking and bicycling to school. SRTS continues to help increase opportunities for students and parents to use these modes of transportation. Many of these SRTS activities benefit to the broader community, especially those who live along routes to school.
SRTS programs are also addressing distracted driving and speeding near schools. Around the country, schools are initiating “no phone zones” and parents are pledging to hang up the phone and watch for pedestrians and bicyclists. Students are educating parents and asking them to slow down, and to stop at crosswalks – especially in school zones.
State Collaboration Example: Montana SRTS Efforts in Rural Settings
To better understand the issues related to active transport to school in rural areas, the Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity Program, funded by the CDC’s Division for Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, partnered with the Montana Department of Transportation to bring the Safe Routes to School national course to Shelby (population, 3,500). After completing this course, which helps prepare communities to implement SRTS programs, the two state agencies collaborated with Shelby community members to develop a Walking and Wheeling Wednesday program to encourage students to walk and bike to school. Because of the success of the program in Shelby and the need to fight obesity in rural areas, the Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity Program decided to replicate components of the Shelby initiative in two additional regions. The Nutrition and Physical Activity Program supported the efforts of the two regions by:
- building community capacity through webinars, site visits, and conference calls;
- providing technical assistance on baseline data collection, capturing the number of children currently walking, identifying parental and environmental barriers;
- assisting the communities apply for Safe Routes to School funding; and
- supporting the communities in developing Safe Routes to School programs which include elements of education, encouragement, and enforcement.
As a result of these efforts, the two recently funded communities and Shelby have:
- established coalitions on active transport to school;
- leveraged funding for Safe Routes to School to increase their capacity; and
- provided increased opportunities for children to walk and bicycle to school (Walking and Wheeling Wednesday Programs and Walk to School Week)
In addition to these community-level achievements, Montana’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Program obtained a SRTS state network partnership grant and has since developed a statewide coalition to work on active transportation policy issues. The coalition has also reinstituted a statewide bicycle and pedestrian education curriculum for schools.
Additional links and resources:
National Center for Safe Routes to School
CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO) Funded State Program Information http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/state-local-programs/index.html
Youth Physical Activity and Program Highlights, 2011 (PDF, 8 pages)
2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines
Youth Physical Activity Guidelines Toolkit http://www.cdc.gov/Healthyyouth/physicalactivity/guidelines.htm#1