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City and County Leaders

SRTS Toolkit

Both city councils and county boards of supervisors can shape safe routes to school and other active transportation options within their jurisdictions. They determine local land-use and transportation priorities through plans, codes, and standards. They adopt land-use plans, approve park and public works expenditures for maintaining paths, sidewalks, and roads.  Their police and sheriff departments enforce traffic safety and can work with schools to provide crossing guards. All of these decisions can influence the viability of safe routes to school projects and other active transportation in their community.

Local leaders can set direction within departments and internal guiding documents, by supporting programs and through collaboration.

Specific tips for city council members and county supervisors are available on the right.

Setting Direction


Both city councils and county boards of supervisors oversee departments that impact active transportation and can make a difference in the viability of safe routes to school plans and programs.

Planning Departments
Planning departments oversee the planning process and general plan implementation. The planning department manages general plan updates, drafts specific plans and zoning ordinances, and enforces said ordinances.

Public Works Departments
Public works departments implement jurisdictions’ transportation infrastructure, maintenance and improvements.  This infrastructure is what can make walking and bicycling possible, or not.

Parks and Recreation Departments
Parks and recreation departments exist in some cities and a few counties.  They typically acquire, develop, operate and maintain the local parks and recreation system. This may include parks, trails, and greenbelts for bicycling, walking, skateboarding, etc.  These departments can pursue joint-use agreements for efficient use of existing city, county or school resources.

Public Health Departments
Public health departments exist in only a few cities but in all counties. Health departments often promote active lifestyles for disease and injury prevention. Some county health departments such as Humboldt, Shasta (PDF) and San Francisco (PDF), have provided leadership in active transportation programs. 

Law Enforcement
Law enforcement attends to traffic accidents, enforces traffic law and, in many cases, participates in programs that encourage and educate residents on safety.  Law enforcement is critical for pedestrian and bicycle safety.  The most obvious role that law enforcement plays is enforcing traffic safety around schools, but they can support active transportation in many other ways as well. 

Police departments with school resource officers can identify traffic and safety issues as experienced by students.  School resource officers can help students feel safer approaching and leaving campus by partnering with community efforts  such as anti-bullying initiatives, graffiti removal, park clean-up campaigns, and dealing with stray dogs.  Many police departments work with schools to teach pedestrian and bicycle safety.  Some police departments have been very creative in developing programs to supplement limited officer hours to provide school zone safety.  The City of Delano (PDF) has an Explorer Troop/Cadet program which recruits and trains youth to deliver their pedestrian and bicycle safety program.

Guiding Documents and Plans

Cities and counties share similar tools to plan how land is utilized and transportation is addressed. Local governments develop and adopt plans to illustrate a community vision, prioritize community needs and guide future development. Many communities in California are beginning to envision a more multi-modal transportation future driven by concerns over climate change, public health and quality of life.

For example, local leaders can establish active transportation goals within a city or county:

Cities and counties may choose to pass local ordinances to promote active communities such as transportation demand management ordinances and reducing school zone speed limits.

Supporting Programs

Some cities and counties have launched or joined programs that promote active transportation, many through Safe Routes to School awards.  For example, cities and counties can play an important role in supporting crossing guards or pedestrians and bicycle safety programs.


Cities and counties promote active transportation through both local and regional collaboration.  Locally, city and county leaders can work with schools, local organizations and community leaders to support complementary efforts.  Regionally, each city and county is represented on its regional planning agency.  This relationship is critical for accessing state and federal transportation funds.


The City of Albany passed a resolution (PDF) endorsing the Alameda County’s participation in the 2010 Campaign for Active Transportation, which had a goal of doubling federal funding for trails, walking and bicycling in the next federal transportation reauthorization bill and attracting federal funding to Alameda County to implement its Active Transportation Plan. The City of Albany recognized that funding in active transportation at the county level would benefit the city, and that Alameda’s Active Transportation Plan aligned with the city’s own goals.

After receiving their first Safe Routes to School award, the City of Eureka joined the Humboldt Partnership for Active Living’s Safe Routes to School Task Force. The task force was concerned about the high accident rate around Alice Birney School. The city acted quickly after a walk audit to improve pedestrian safety with low-cost improvements such as ladder-painted crosswalks and no-parking zones. A teacher championed a bicycle safety component. The school applied and received a Kids Plate mini-grant to provide bicycle mechanics and safety instruction. Through collaborative efforts, there was a 67 percent decrease in bicycle accidents over three years. Read the case story here (PDF).

The City of Sebastopol Engineering Department and the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition formed a collaborative and launched a “Walk and Roll” campaign, provided bicycle safety education and created a “Sebastopol Safer Routes to School Map”. The collaboration included police, the school district, the Parent Teacher Association and other partners. Walking rates increased in all four target schools. Read the case story here (PDF).


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