A boy riding home from school on his bike.

Safe Routes to School

Active Journey to School and the Safe Routes to School Program

Regular physical activity is important for health. Among children and adolescents, walking and bicycling to school can contribute to physical activity levels and fitness (1-4). However, the proportion of children who walk or bicycle to school dropped from 40.7% in 1969 to 12.9% in 2001 (5). Several factors may shape trends in physically active transportation to school including increasing travel distances, and car ownership (6), safety, and the physical infrastructure supporting physically active trips (6-8).  Creating child-friendly settings around schools and providing skills to safely negotiate the environment can be keys to promoting an active journey to school (9).

The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program was created as part of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, (SAFETEA-LU) in 2005. The US Congress initially authorized $612 million to facilitate the planning, development, and implementation of infrastructure improvements and other initiatives in and around schools to enable and encourage all children to walk and bicycle to school.

National Safe Routes to School Funding


  • Overall, $221 million was obligated to implement 2,298 SRTS projects in the 50 U.S. states during fiscal years 2005-2009.
  • Overall, the largest category of funding for local projects was ‘facilities for pedestrians and bicycles’, whereas for statewide/multi-county projects it was ‘preliminary engineering’.

The Typical State* Obligated:

  • 38% of available funds, or $6.41 per student.
  • 18% of funds to awareness, education, and enforcement activities to encourage walking and bicycling to school.
  • 74% of funds to local projects (projects that were funded in a specific county).
  • 34% of local project funding in counties with a high child poverty rate.

*For the purpose of this analysis, a typical state is one at the median, or midpoint of the distribution.  Half the distribution is above this value and half is below.
Safe Routes to School Federal Transportation Funding: Glossary

srtspctoblig (srts_pctobligofavail_7_28_11col.jpg)

Figure 1 shows percent of available SRTS funds that were obligated in 50 US states, FY 2005-2009

srtsperstud (srts_perstudent_7_28_11_minstatescol.jpg)

Figure 2 shows per student SRTS funds that were obligated in 50 US states, FY 2005-2009

To learn more about the Safe Routes to School program, visit:

  • Federal Highway Administration


  • National Center for Safe Routes to School


  • Safe Routes to School National Partnership


For resources and research on supporting active communities:

  • Active Living Research