Many of us remember a time when walking and bicycling to school was a part of everyday life. In 1969, about half of all students walked or bicycled to school.
Today, however, the story is very different. Fewer than 15% of all school trips are made by walking or bicycling, one-quarter are made on a school bus, and over half of all children arrive at school in private automobiles.
Effects of Walking & Biking Downward Trend
This decline in walking and bicycling has had an adverse effect on traffic congestion and air quality around schools, as well as pedestrian and bicycle safety.
In addition, a growing body of evidence has shown that children who lead sedentary lifestyles are at risk for a variety of health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Safety issues are a big concern for parents, who consistently cite traffic danger as a reason why their children are unable to bicycle or walk to school.
Federal Safe Routes to School Program
The purpose of the Federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program is to address these issues head-on. At its heart, the SRTS Program empowers communities to make walking and bicycling to school a safe and routine activity once again. The Program makes funding available for a wide variety of programs and projects, from building safer street crossings to establishing programs that encourage children and their parents to walk and bicycle safely to school.
In July 2008, the National SRTS Task Force released its final report titled Safe Routes to School: A Transportation Legacy. The report provides specific recommendations to the U.S. Department of Transportation and Congress regarding future and current efforts to make walking and bicycling safely to school a reality for American school children.