What is Safe Routes to School?

Safe Routes to School is a movement that aims to make it safer and easier for students to walk and bike to school. The first federally funded Safe Routes to School program was created in 2005, and has since undergone several legislative and policy transformations. In 2012, Congress created the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) by merging together three previous programs that funded active transportation. In 2015, Congress authorized TAP for an additional five years, through 2020. Click here for the complete funding and legislative history of Safe Routes to School.

At the state level, state departments of transportation receive Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) federal funds and select projects through a competitive process open to local governments and school systems. At the local level, Safe Routes to School practitioners run education and encouragement programs with families and schools and push for strong municipal and district policies to support safe walking and bicycling. 

The most successful Safe Routes to School programs incorporate the Six E’s: evaluation, education, encouragement, engineering, engagement, and equity. At the regional and state level, Safe Routes to School practitioners work to find new funding and ensure proper spending of existing funding for Safe Routes to School.  And at the federal level, the Safe Routes Partnership and its allies maintain a steady voice for policy and funding support in Washington and provide a source of expert help, ideas, and resources for leaders at all levels.

Since 2005, Safe Routes to School programs have benefited more than 14,000 schools in all 50 states. And the demand continues to grow, especially low-income communities, communities of color, and rural communities, where it is hard for anyone to safely and conveniently walk, bicycle, or get physical activity. These are the communities where the next generation of supportive policies and programs are needed most.