Safe Routes to School

Studies show that children who walk and bicycle to school are more physically active,1 have lower obesity levels2 and are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines3 than students who are driven or bused to school.

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a local, national and international movement to create safe, convenient and fun opportunities for kids to bike and walk to school. Infrastructure installed with SRTS funding is proven to reduce pedestrian and bicycle deaths and injuries. For example, adding a sidewalk cuts in half the risk that a pedestrian will be struck by a car.4

Communities that support biking and walking, especially for children, help make daily activity more accessible. This improves kids’ health, reduces traffic congestion, improves air quality and helps kids arrive to school focused and ready to learn. 

SRTS in Minnesota is about encouraging kids to walk or bike where it’s safe and working to make unsafe areas safe. The efforts of parents, school officials, city administrators, public health officials and students have contributed to the following accomplishments:

    • Creation of a robust SRTS Network.
    • Establishment of a Minnesota SRTS program managed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).
    • Incorporation of SRTS into strategies to improve the health of every student in the state through the Minnesota Departments of Health and Education.

We each can do something to make it easier and safer for kids to walk to school—individual steps can make a difference. However, we see the most lasting change when schools pursue a comprehensive approach by developing a SRTS plan in collaboration with the municipality, parents and students. A SRTS plan identifies barriers and opportunities, and sets priorities for projects to address the most pressing concerns. This approach helps target resources where health and safety impact is most needed. Both MnDOT and local public health officials have supported SRTS plan development. 

As the manager of federal and state funds that support the Minnesota SRTS program, MnDOT has convened a steering committee to set priorities, including the development of the Walk! Bike! Fun! Pedestrian and Bicycling Curriculum and a Minnesota SRTS online resource center (coming in fall 2014).

The Center for Prevention coordinates the Minnesota SRTS Network. The original purpose of the network was to ensure the success of the federal funds. Our primary strategy was to connect the local SRTS organizer with others in the state to create a learning network and demonstrate the demand for SRTS resources. Four years later, the network serves as a regular learning opportunity for both the local SRTS professionals, as well as representatives from MnDOT and the Minnesota Department of Health, to share information and support each other’s efforts at the local and state level. The network continues to cement the SRTS program at the state level to sustain this movement. 

We are also part of the Minnesota Safe Routes to School Coalition, which is comprised of more than 35 organizations that support state funding to ensure children can safely walk or bike to school. 

Download the Minnesota Safe Routes to School Network fact sheet here.

Related links

1 Cooper AR, LB Andersen, N Wedderkopp, AS Page, and K Froberg. “Physical activity levels of children who walk, cycle or are driven to school.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 29 (2005): 3, 179-184. 

2 Mendoza JA, K Watson, N Nguyen, E Cerin, T Baranowski, and TA Nicklas. “Active Commuting to School and Association with Physical Activity and Adiposity Among US Youth.” Journal of Physical Activity and Health 8 (May 2011): 4, 488-495.
3 Sirard JR, WF Riner, KL McIver, and RR Pate. “Physical activity and active commuting to elementary school.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 37 (2005): 12, 2062-2069. 
4 “Safe Routes to School: Helping Communities Save Dollars.” Safe Routes to School National Partnership, 2011. Available at: http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/sites/default/files/pdf/SRTSNP-2011-Policy-Report.pdf

  • Making Healthy Choices Possible for All Minnesotans

    The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota tackles the leading causes of preventable disease -- tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy eating -- to increase health equity, transform communities and create a healthier state.