Making the Case for Designing Active Cities

Key takeaway: Safe Routes to School initiatives can contribute to creating multi-faceted “activity-friendly” environments that provide a range of societal co-benefits; filling gaps in the evidence of co-benefits will further support the importance of active transportation to school.


  • Safe Routes to School demonstrated moderate evidence of a positive effect on safety and injury prevention based on the following findings from Dimaggio (2013):
    • The annual rate of pedestrian injury decreased 33% in school-aged children (5- to 19-year-olds) and 14% in other age groups after SRTS infrastructure interventions.
    • The annual rate of school-aged pedestrian injury during school-travel hours decreased 44% from 8.0 to 4.4. injuries per 10,000 population before and after Safe Routes to School infrastructure interventions, but remained unchanged in areas without SRTS interventions.
  • There was insufficient evidence found by this study to connect Safe Routes to School with social benefits or improved environmental sustainability.
  • Pedestrian and bicycle facilities like sidewalks, bike lanes, and bike parking had strong evidence of a positive effect on safety/injury prevention and economic benefits and moderate evidence for social benefits and environmental sustainability.


  • This non-systematic review of 418 sources gathered expert recommendations for peer-reviewed and gray literature on the built environment features and outcomes/co-benefits. Using this literature, the researchers created summary scores for the weight of evidence of co-benefits of activity-friendly environments on physical health, mental health, social benefits, safety/injury prevention, environmental sustainability, and economics in five physical activity settings of parks/trails, urban design, transportation, schools, and workplaces/buildings.

Sallis, J.F. & Spoon, C. (2015). Making the Case for Designing Active Cities. [Technical report.] Active Living Research.

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