Continuing Research on the California Safe Routes to School Program
Evaluating the impact of California Safe Routes to School
In 1999, California became the first state to pass legislation for a state level Safe Routes to School program, allocating transportation funds for engineering modifications near schools. Since its inception, policy goals have been increasing walking and bicycling activity among students at elementary, middle and high schools, and reducing child/adolescent injuries and fatalities.
Not only was the California SRTS program unique in that it was a state-level program providing transportation funds for engineering improvements that focused on health promotion; but the focus of SRTS also expanded beyond traffic safety for the first time, branching out to include promotion of physical activity through walking and bicycling to school.
Original California legislation mandated two evaluation periods:
A research team from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) conducted the first study from 2001-2003, focusing on the the program’s impact on levels of walking and bicycling to school, as well as traffic safety characteristics (e.g., vehicle speeds, yielding, pedestrian and bicyclist travel patterns) near schools (Boarnet et al., 2003, 2005a, 2005b).
In the second evaluation in 2005, a research team from the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) examined the program’s effectiveness in reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities involving children in the vicinity of SRTS projects (Orenstein et al., 2007). The UCB evaluation collected pre- and post-construction data at 10 schools and found increased rates of walking and bicycling to school after the engineering modification had been completed near a school, particularly when the modification was along a child’s chosen route to school. Additionally, the 2005 evaluation found that traffic safety conditions improved near several schools, especially in instances where children were walking on a newly constructed sidewalks rather than the shoulder of the roadway, as well as the rate of motor vehicles yielding to pedestrians and bicyclists at intersections after a traffic signal had been installed (Boarnet, et al., 2003, 2005a, 2005b).
Research to begin for third evaluation period:
The news of a third analysis is not only exciting, but also much needed in demonstrating the successes and challenges of Safe Routes to School Program. Download the complete report to understand the scope of work for the upcoming research.
A big thanks to researcher Tracy McMillan for discussing this project with us.