Rooting for Safe Routes to Schools

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A review of the active transportation and health effects of Safe Routes to School (SR2S)
April 23, 2019
San José, CA

A student’s safety as they walk to and from school shouldn’t feel like a radical concept. In 2005, Congress passed the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) with $612 million allocated to Safe Routes to School (SR2S). In the perspective “Active Transportation and Health Effects of Safe Routes to School (SR2S) Projects and Planning” by Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) researcher Dr. Christopher Ferrell documents the current understanding and effects of SR2S projects on public health and active transportation in the U.S.

Eligible recipients of SR2S funding need to spend between 70-90% of allocations on infrastructure projects, improving safety for walking and bicycling to school within a two-mile radius of a school. Congress has renewed SR2S funding with each new transportation-funding bill with the program’s purpose outlined as:

  1. Increasing walking and bicycling to school;
  2. Making bicycling and walking to school safer and more appealing, encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle; and
  3. Facilitating projects and activities that improve non-motorist safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution near schools.

According to the MTI perspective, early research on SR2S focused on intervention projects, where the addition of sidewalk improvements, traffic signal improvements, crosswalk and crossing signal improvements, and bike path improvements rendered improvements to traffic safety for children throughout the U.S. “In other words, “says Dr. Ferrell, “child collision rates will fall when proper traffic calming (SR2S) interventions are made.”

SR2S projects have encouraged more students to walk or bike to school. Research shows that students whose school route passed an SR2S project were three to four times more likely to begin walking/biking. The results summarized in the perspective are encouraging to the continued efforts of SR2S projects to increase the use of active transportation.


At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nation's’ transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. MTI was founded in 1991 and is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants. MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.


Dr. Christopher Ferrell is an MTI Research Associate who began his planning career at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) on intelligent transportation system (ITS) applications for traffic management. He has worked as a transportation consultant and co-founded CFA Consultants, a transportation planning and research firm.



Irma Garcia, MTI Communications & Workforce Development Coordinator



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