DOT logo
NHTSA logo

Safe Routes to School

Index / NHTSA Home / Table of Contents


General Health

Exercise and Youth

Heart Disease

Physical Fitness


California Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Coalition
California Department of Health Services
Children, Transport and the Quality of Life, Mayer Hillman 1993
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Surgeon General Report on Physical Activity and Health, 1996
Compiled by Safe Routes to Schools, a project of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition
P.O. Box 201, Forest Knolls, CA 94933 415-488-4101

Environmental FACT SHEET

Alternatives to driving alone

Automobile Use

Global Warming


Prepared by Safe Routes to Schools, a Project of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition


Guidelines for Good Pedestrian Behavior
Guidelines for Children:

Guidelines for Parents:

Helmets Can Save Lives:

Success Stories

The City of Seattle reported a 77 to 91 percent reduction in traffic collisions in some communities after it installed 700 traffic circles, while Portland, Oregon, experienced a 58 percent reduction in the number of reported crashes. (ITS)

The City of Santa Monica is redesigning at least a dozen major streets, installing bike lanes, and widening sidewalks and medians. The city is also embedding flashing yellow lights in the pavement to illuminate some crosswalks. Police have issued more than 700 citations to drivers failing to yield to pedestrians in nine months. (City of Santa Monica, CA)

In Odense, Denmark, the city created a network of traffic-free foot and bike paths, established slow speed areas, narrowed roads and installed traffic islands. Crashes declined by 85 percent. Twenty percent of all journeys in Denmark are now made by bike compared with 3 percent in Great Britain and 1 percent in the United States. (Dept. of Environment and Transport Regions, London, England)

In Great Britain, speed zones were reduced to 20 mph, resulting in 70 percent fewer child pedestrian causalities and 28 percent fewer bicycling causalities. (Dept. of Environment and Transport Regions, London, England)

Some Statistics

Safe Routes to Schools, PO Box 201, Forest Knolls, CA 94933; Tel: 415-488-4101. E-mail:;

Student Survey: How We Traveled to School Today

Grade_______ #of Students_______ Teacher____________________________


Parent Survey:

1. What is your child’s sex and grade level?
Boy ______ Girl ______ Grade____________________

2. What is the approximate distance from your home to the school?
o14 mile or less
o 14 to 12 mile
o 12 mile to 1 mile
o between 1–2 miles
o over 2 miles

3. What neighborhood/community do you live in? ___________________________________________

4. How does your child usually travel to and from school? (check the appropriate boxes below)


  Every Day 2-3 times a week Once a week Occasionally

From school in the afternoon

  Every Day 2-3 times a week Once a week Occasionally

5. Do you feel that the school provides a safe place to store bikes? yes_____ no_____

6. Do you have concerns about traffic safety along the routes to school? yes_____ no_____

7. Please elaborate (include specific streets or intersections that are problematic)

8. If you drive your child, why do you make that choice?
o Safety
o Convenience
o Drop off on way to work
o Too far to walk
o Sidewalks (lack of or incomplete)
o High speed vehicles
o Child is too young
o Bad weather
o Child would not obey safety rules
o Backpacks too heavy
o Carrying projects or musical instruments
o Tardiness
o Safe place to cross the street
o Scary people
o Lack of safe place to store bikes
o No biking or walking route maps
o Paths are incomplete or not wide enough
o Unfriendly dogs
o Other

9. Would you allow your child to walk or bike if:
o Accompanied by other children
o Accompanied by other parents
o Provide routes maps
o Crossing guards more effective
o Safety training for students
o Improved sidewalks and bike paths
o Cars slowed down
o Secure bike storage was available
o Paths were separated from traffic
o Other

10. Would you let your child carpool if:
o You were familiar with the driver
o Someone organized it
o Other

11. Would you be interested in volunteering to help set up or maintain a walking or biking program? yes_____ no_____
If so please give your name and phone number ______________________


Please return this survey to the school office.
Or mail it to:

Safe routes to school: Traffic Count Form

Road Name or Location __________________________________________________
Date____________________________ Weather ______________________________
Start Time _______________________ End Time _____________________________
Name(s) of Counters & Recorders__________________________________________

Count the Number of Cars
How Many Children in Each Car? Count the Bicyclists
(with helmets)
Count the Bicyclists
(without helmets)
Count the Number of Children Walking

















Instructions for Traffic Count Form

1. Have kids pair up in teams of two to count walkers and bicyclists. Car counters need teams of three.

2. Each team is assigned a location where children are arriving at school.

3. One person is the counter and the other is the recorder. When counting cars, one person counts cars and another counts the number of children in each car.

4. The counters call out a car (biker or walker) when it (they) arrives. The recorder makes a mark for the number of cars and writes out the number for the number of children per car. (Make sure they keep the tic marks in groups of five). The bike and walking counters should make marks for each child.

5. At the end they total the number of marks. Then they count how many cars that had more than one child in the car, which counts the number of carpools. Note: If the class has learned how to average, then have them compute the number of children per carpool.

6. Combine all the forms to find out how many children walked to school, biked to school, came in a carpool, or came alone in a car.

7. Return the forms to the Safe Routes to School box in the office or contact __________________ at __________________.

Thanks for helping out the Safe Routes to School program

Safe Routes to School is a project of:

SAMPLE:Letter Home to Parents

Dear Parent,

YOUR SCHOOL and YOUR TOWN are working to ensure the safety of children traveling to and from school. To that end we will be starting a Safe Routes to Schools program this fall. This program will determine the safest routes to walk and bike to school, suggest safety improvements to those routes, develop fun ways to encourage more children to use those routes, and recruit parents and neighbors to accompany children to school. We will be teaching children traffic safety and look at ways to slow the traffic down around the schools

The programs goals are to:

Our first event will be _________ which has been declared International Walk to School Day. Parents and children who walk or bike to school together that day will arrive to a host of festivities and goodies.

If you are concerned about traffic and safety in and around the school and would like more information about Safe Routes to Schools please come to our first planning meeting on _____________.

Here’s what you can do to help:

Fill out the enclosed questionnaire and return it by ____________.

Mark your calendar and participate in International Walk to School Day.

Come to our first informational meeting on _____________________

If you are tired of traffic dangers around the school, here is your chance to make a difference. Thank you for any participation you can give to this program. We will be keeping you informed about our progress.

Yours truly,

Safe Routes to Schools: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE



Your Name, Safe Routes to Schools Team Leader

Your Phone Number




TIME: _______ LOCATION: ___________

On Date, Name of School will be holding its monthly Walk and Bike to School Day. Name of School has been holding monthly events which have been growing in size ever since the school participated in International Walk to School Day last October.

People are invited to walk and bike to school with their children on Date. Neighbors and community members are invited to walk and bike as well.


Walk and Bike to School Day is being sponsored by Name of Town’s Safe Routes to Schools program. Safe Routes to Schools is the popular new program that is getting more children to walk and bicycle to school. It is an international movement that aims to make everyday walk and bike to school day. More children walking and biking means better health benefits for them and the environment, and reduced traffic congestion for everyone.

Safe Routes to Schools works by organizing “Teams” at each school which organize events and contests, and assist with promotion and facilitation of walking and biking to school. Local “Teams” within a town work together with law enforcement and town officials to map the routes to schools and make the routes physically safer. The program also includes classroom education for bicycle and pedestrian safety skills. You don’t have to be a parent to join in the fun!

For more information contact Your Name, Your Number.

Support letter from Principal
for the Safe Routes to Schools Program


MY SCHOOL wishes to become part of the Safe Routes to Schools Program. I understand that The Safe Routes to Schools program would take place during the 2002-2003 school year and to be a Safe Routes to Schools Program requires the formation of a Safe Routes Team at my school which can include parents, neighbors, and interested teachers, which will organize contests and events.

I also understand that Safe Routes to Schools will be providing in-class safety education at my school and will be training volunteers, public safety officers and interested staff in assisting in these presentations. I have read the curriculum outline and will assist the program in finding class time during Physical Education. If PE is not available at my school we will find other class time for these presentations.

I also understand that my school will be part of a community-wide Task Force of parents, neighborhood members, and participation from staff from the school and town which will identify and evaluate safer routes to schools for our children and present this to City staff.

In addition to helping to relieve morning traffic (which is at an all-time high), I am excited about the potential for this Safe Routes to Schools Program because walking and bicycling increases the physical and mental health of children.

I am is pleased to support the Safe Routes to Schools program.

Resolution in Support of
the Safe Routes to Schools Program Sample

Whereas: YOUR School wishes to become part of the Safe Routes to Schools Program; and

Whereas: The Safe Routes to Schools program would take place during the 2002/2003 school year; and

Whereas: To be a Safe Routes to Schools Program requires the formation of Teams at each school which can include parents, neighbors, and interested teachers, which will organize contests and events, and

Whereas: Safe Routes to Schools’ will assist in forming a community-wide Task Force which will include parents, neighborhood members, law enforcement, and participation from staff from the school and town which will identify and evaluate safer routes to schools for our children and present this to City staff; and

Whereas: Safe Routes to Schools will be providing in-class safety education in each qualifying school, and

Whereas: In addition to helping to relieve morning traffic (which is at an all-time high), Your DISTRICT /TOWN is excited about the potential for this Safe Routes to Schools Program because walking and bicycling increases the physical health of children; and

Whereas: There are several existing bicycle and pedestrian paths in our community, as well as sidewalks and bicycle lanes, which would be well used as school routes through more community education, cooperation, and promotion.

Therefore: YOUR DISTRICT/CITY is pleased to support the Safe Routes to Schools program.


Whereas: International Walk to School Day will be held on October 2, 2002; and

Whereas: This event, taking place around the world, will focus on the benefits of walking or biking rather than driving to school, creating cleaner, safer and environmentally healthier schools for children; and

Whereas: This day affords parents the opportunity to spend more time with their children, reduces car use and traffic hazards, promotes physical activity and contributes to a safer community.

Therefore: We, the YOUR School District, do hereby proclaim October 2, 2002 as “International Walk to School Day” and encourage everyone to participate in this very worthwhile event.


Organizing a Walk to School Day can be fun and rewarding for everyone. Each school finds its own method of creating a safe environment for kids to walk and bike to school. Below are some suggestions that can make your day go smoothly. Find out what works for you. Remember to give each of your volunteers something to do. If everyone takes a little bit, then no one is burdened with too much.

Basic needs

o Inform the school administration and the PTA of the event

o Arrange for crossing guards and/or adults monitors

o Notify police

o Have a greeter(s), a table and garbage cans

o Have someone buy or get donated food if you’re having treats (Some grocery stores can reserve items for you if you get in touch well in advance)

Walking School Buses and Bike Trains

o In Neighborhoods—publish a “bus” route with “stops”.

• Assign at least two adults for each “bus” with a dozen children.

o For School-wide Parades: establish Staging Areas where people can “catch the bus”

• Assign at least four adults to each staging area. Two for walking Two for biking

o Invite other parents to walk or bike along.


o Send home flyers

o Put up posters

o Put up signs on roads

o Send out e-mail

o Phone parents to remind them

o Put item in school newsletter

o Have principal make an ongoing announcements 1-2 days before event

o Notify teachers and ask them to remind students

o Put out press release

o Have students make signs and flags to carry

Other Volunteer Options

o Senior groups

o Biking clubs

o Hiking clubs

o Other community groups

Safe Routes to Schools P.O. Box 201 Forest Knolls CA 94933 (415)488-4101


The Six simple Steps to Staying Safe:

1) When walking, stop at every curb or edge.

2) Always look and listen, especially while crossing. Look left; look right; then left again, before stepping past any curb or edge.

3) Always wear a helmet when riding a bike.

4) Always ride in the same direction as traffic.

5) Know what signs say. When walking or riding, follow all traffic signs and signals.

6) When riding, always stop; look left; look right; then left again before pulling out of a driveway.

Helpful Hints in the Classroom For Volunteers

Working with teachers to schedule lessons:

Classroom management strategies:

Set up strategies:

Lesson strategies:

Frequent Rider Miles Contest

The Frequent Rider Miles contest rewards children who come to school walking, biking, by bus or by carpool. Every time a child walks or bikes to school he or she gets to cross off the bike/walk box on his/her card worth two points. A child who rides the bus or carpools checks the carpool/bus box worth one point. A child who walks to the bus can count that as two points. Every card must be signed by a parent or guardian.

When the children have completed their card, they turn it in and get an instant reward by choosing something from the grab bag plus they get a new card. At the end of the year, there will be a raffle. Prizes have included bicycles, gloves, helmets, blinkies, bags, hats and t-shirts.

How to Organize the Contest
The simple version:
Schedule a set time and place when children can turn in their cards and get prizes, weekly is best. One school is collecting cards at their regular morning walk/bike day table and another is setting up an area during lunchtime once a week. You can also set up a card return in the office if you have a willing staff person. When a child turns in his/her card, you let him/her choose a reward from the grab bag and the child gets a new card. At the end of the year, schedule a special time when you can have the raffle. You can do it during lunch time, schedule a special assembly or piggy-back on an existing assembly.

Advanced version:
If you want to provide extra rewards for kids who walk and bike more regularly, you can track those children for special treats. Every time a child turns in a card, stamp the new card for each card they have turned in. For instance, a child turns in a card and gets a new card with one stamp. The next time, you’ll see that the child's card has a stamp and you give him/her two stamps on the third card. This will let you keep track of the children who are more advanced in the contest.

You can reserve the more desirable prizes for those kids. This gives them incentive to walk and bike more often. For instance: For children who turn in one or two cards, they choose from grab bag #1. For those who turn in 3-4 cards, they get a different bag of prizes. A fifth card could get them a special treat donated by a local merchant, such as a free ice cream or video rental. You can also keep the cards with multiple stamps separate and have a special raffle for them. Publish or announce the names of those students who are turning in multiple cards. Let them be acknowledged for their special effort.

You can be somewhat flexible in your guidelines. If a child is dropped off at school but walks or bikes, or buses home, you can allow the child to count that as points. Do NOT count more than one way a day (we don’t have enough prizes for that). We encourage you to only count multi-family carpools. A large family is not really doing anything different than a small family and it will seem unfair if they are allowed to be rewarded. Private schools may need to organize this differently.

How to Announce the Contest
The easiest way to launch the contest is to announce it at an assembly and explain the rules to everyone at once. However, if you have the volunteers, it’s better to go to each class and explain the contest and answer questions.

Use this contest to spread the word about walking and biking to school. Advertise the contest in your weekly newsletter, publicize the names of the winners, put their names up on a bulletin board or give them recognition at assemblies. Keep reminding the kids to “Count their Miles”.

Some “What Ifs?”
What if a child gets dropped off at daycare early in the morning and can’t participate? What if a child is handicapped or has special needs? Let these children be classroom monitors and allow them to get a little prize for helping out. Or give them another job to do to help with the contest. Some schools have offered alternative activities like completing activity books.

What if a child gets dropped off in the morning but walks or bikes home? If this is a child who walks or bikes regularly home, then they really are in the spirit of the contest. We leave it up to your discretion if you want to make an exception. It is more difficult to monitor the way children go home. Make sure they understand that they can’t claim walking and biking home in addition to coming to school. It’s one square a day.

What if a child wants to participate but his/her parents adamantly insist on driving their child themselves? This is unfortunate, but it is the parent’s right. Suggest that the child find someone who lives near them who might like to carpool. If the parent refuses to carpool, then the parent may have to deal with an unhappy child, and it is their responsibility, not yours.

Developed by Safe Routes to Schools, a project of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, and GO GERONIMO
(PO Box 201, Forest Knolls, CA 94933; Tel: 415-488-4101.

Walk and Bike Across America
A Classroom Contest for 2nd through 8th graders

Walk and Bike Across America is a great opportunity for kids to see just how far they can get by walking and biking. This is a classroom contest that promotes teamwork. Teachers can also use this opportunity as a geography and a science lesson.

How to Play
Children will be given a form to take home and fill out with their parents on a weekly basis. This form will allow them to keep track of the number of miles they travel walking and biking to school. Each week at a designated time, a member of the class takes all the forms and adds up the number of miles that they have all traveled during that week. Children who take the bus or carpool can contribute one bonus mile for every time they travel to school by either of those modes.

The class then takes a piece of string and measures out the total mileage using the key from the map as your guide. This string will be used to measure the miles on the map. They then decide where they want to go for that number of miles (make sure you travel along roads and not “as the crow flies”).

Each week, the class travels a little farther. At the end of the contest period, the class that has traveled the farthest gets a special prize—this can be a pizza or ice cream party donated by a local business, or a special field trip. Each school can decide on the prize.

Using this contest as part of class lessons:
Geography: As an option, the class can look up each place they travel and find out something about it. They can also get on the Internet and try to contact the city or town. There may be a school in that town that can be contacted by the students, explaining that they have “traveled” to their school.

Science: The class can also keep track of the amount of pollution they have saved. Every time a car is started, pollutants are sent into the atmosphere. Every mile after that produces more pollution. Therefore, every mile a student travels without a car is saving that much pollution. At the end of the contest period you can show how much pollution was saved by the kids not driving to school.

The startup pollution for automobiles is:

1.5 grams of reactive organic compounds (ROGs)
11.6 grams of carbon monoxide (CO)
.8 grams of oxides of nitrogen (NOx)

Thereafter, the per mile pollution is:

.7 g per mile of ROGS
8.1 g per mile of CO
.9 g per mile of NOx

Index / NHTSA Home / Table of Contents