This guide was developed to support local school, city, and county officials and their executive staff who want to promote pedestrian and bicycle safety for students traveling to and from school, as well as expanding active transportation choices for all residents through Safe Routes to School and other programs.
Purpose of the Guide
Safe Routes to School awards are well known and utilized but unfortunately limited. By understanding the greater transportation planning and resource allocation processes, and learning some of the important questions to ask, local leaders can understand their community’s unique situation and prioritize Safe Routes to School requests to complement other investments. While each Safe Routes to School project may be managed by a single agency, it will have longer-lasting benefit if the project aligns with a collaborative vision and active transportation infrastructure planning.
Safe Routes to School Background
California was the first state in the country to legislate a Safe Routes to School (SR2S) program with the enactment of AB 1475 in 1999. A complementary federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program came into effect in August of 2005. The California Department of Transportation administers both federal and state programs and, as of early 2012, has awarded $426 million through these two programs. These two award programs have helped California communities improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety infrastructure around schools and offer programs which educate and encourage students to safely walk or bicycle to school.
Safe walking and bicycling to school is one benefit of active communities, places where people of all ages and abilities can get to a destination without having to rely on a car. In these communities, people feel safe to walk, want to bicycle and have destinations within short distances. These active communities offer access to a public transportation network that takes residents to locations beyond their comfortable and timely walking distance. Active communities have an active transportation infrastructure that includes sidewalks, bicycle lanes or paths, and safe street crossings.
Planning for active transportation and planning for safe routes to school are closely related. Creating safe routes for children walking and bicycling between school, their home, and extracurricular activities improves conditions for the community as a whole. Local decision-makers who understand the varied ways in which transportation planning and investment happen in their region will have access to more resources to address goals like reduced traffic congestion, improved mobility choices, and increased walking and bicycling to school. By thinking about safe routes to schools within the regional context of transportation and land use policies and plans, local decision-makers can bring multiple resources together to create places where students and the community have safe and enjoyable places to walk and bicycle.
Collaboration and coordination across local and regional jurisdictions is the smart way to foster active communities, especially in an era where transportation funding is declining. By using safe routes to school as a platform to collaborate across city, county and school jurisdictions, local decision-makers can leverage other funding and coordinate community infrastructure investments. Opportunities also exist for local decision-makers to leverage and reform existing sources of transportation revenue, as it is largely comprised from local fees and taxes often tied to local development.