Investment in safe routes to school projects: public health benefits for the larger community

Prev Chronic Dis. 2008 Jul;5(3):A90. Epub 2008 Jun 15.


Introduction: The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program is designed to encourage active and safe transportation for children to school. This report examines the potential broader impact of these programs on communities within 0.5 mile (0.8 km) of schools.

Methods: We used a geographic information system to generate estimates of the land area within 0.5 mile of public schools in 4 U.S. Census-defined categories: 37 large urban areas, 428 small urban areas, 1088 metropolitan counties (counties in metropolitan statistical areas excluding the urban areas), and 2048 nonmetropolitan counties. We estimated population at the county level or at the U.S. Census-defined urban-area level using data from the 2000 U.S. Census.

Results: In large urban areas, 39.0% of the land area was within 0.5 mile of a public school, and in small urban areas, 26.5% of the land area was within 0.5 mile of a public school. An estimated 65.5 million people in urban areas could benefit from SRTS projects. In nonurban areas, 1% or less of land is within 0.5 mile of a public school.

Conclusion: Results suggest that SRTS projects in urban areas can improve the walking and bicycling environment for adults as well as for children, the target users. Investment in SRTS can contribute to increased physical activity among children and adults.

MeSH terms

  • Bicycling
  • City Planning*
  • Environment Design*
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Healthy People Programs
  • Humans
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Rural Population
  • Safety*
  • Schools*
  • United States
  • Urban Population
  • Walking*