Multi-state Study Finds Safe Routes to School Programs Work

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A large-scale, multi-state study led by Noreen McDonald, CURS faculty fellow and director of the Carolina Transportation Program, finds Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs increase walking and biking to and from school. The study, entitled “Impact of the Safe Routes to School Program on Walking and Bicycling,” was published in the Journal of the American Planning Association.
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Increasing walking and bicycling to school has been a national priority since Congress passed federal legislation that established the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program in 2005. However, there have been no large-scale studies with strong research designs to test the impacts of the program, until now. The research team studied 801 schools in the District of Columbia, Florida, Oregon, and Texas to assess how the proportion of students walking and bicycling to school changed after the introduction of SRTS programs. The researchers included schools with and without SRTS programs and analyzed data collected over time (2007–2012). They found significant increases in walking and bicycling after schools implemented SRTS programs. Read the abstract and download the full Journal of the American Planning Association article by Noreen C. McDonald, Ruth L. Steiner, Chanam Lee, Tori Rhoulac Smith, Xuemei Zhu & Yizhao Yang.

Based on the research results, McDonald and her team recommend planners “work to prioritize capital improvements that improve non-motorized access to school and revise comprehensive plans and subdivision regulations to ensure that new development supports access to school.”

This research has garnered significant attention and the practical policy implications of this research may have lasting effects. For more coverage of the study, click here and here. See the detailed regional breakdowns of the SRTS study here.