Our Childhood Obesity Initiative team did a brief review of Safe Routes to School (SR2S) programs and provided Insights and Recommendations below

Exploring Safe Routes to School (SR2S) programs across the country and reviewing the literature on these programs gives us insight into how to have an impact when encouraging active transportation (AT) among children and youth. SR2S programs are all about inspiring kids to walk or bike to school which has multiple benefits including increasing their physical activity and time outdoors, as well as reducing traffic. San Diego County has a history of implementing SR2S programs, but in recent years funding has dwindled. If SR2S programs are adopted in the future it will be important to incorporate recent research which provides valuable insights into the world of SR2S initiatives.

A rapid realist review underscored the need to tackle both implementation hurdles and understand what gets kids moving on their own. For instance, convincing parents to loosen the reins on their children’s commute can be a major challenge. However, kids themselves are motivated by the fun and sense of accomplishment that comes with walking or biking to school independently 1. Another study focused on SR2S program adoption in North America, emphasizing the crucial role of partnerships, adaptability, and community engagement in successful program implementation2. Additionally, research conducted in Arizona explored the factors influencing active transportation to school, including individual and school-level factors like support systems and perceived health benefits3. Another study in Arizona investigated how features of the built environment affect active transportation, suggesting that targeting neighborhoods close to schools could be key for effective AST programs4. Furthermore, a cross-sectional study in the U.S. shed light on disparities in AST participation among different socioeconomic and racial/ethnic groups, highlighting the importance of equity in promoting active transportation. Despite these efforts, children with disabilities remain largely underrepresented in active transportation initiatives, pointing to the need for inclusive strategies to ensure equitable access for all youth 5.

These research findings offer excellent recommendations for improving program effectiveness and implementation. By incorporating these insights into future policies and practices, we can work towards creating environments that support and encourage active school travel, ultimately leading to improved health outcomes for children and communities.


  1. E;, M. S. B. (n.d.). Adoption of safe routes to school in Canadian and the United States contexts: Best practices and recommendations. The Journal of school health. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26149312/
  2. JM;, R. A. (n.d.). Predictors of active transportation among safe routes to school participants in Arizona: Impacts of distance and income. The Journal of school health. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34914106/
  3. M;, R. A. J. (n.d.). The moderating effect of distance on features of the built environment and active school transport. International journal of environmental research and public health. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33120926/
  4. M;, V. T. S. M. (n.d.). Changing Primary School Children’s engagement in active school travel using Safe Routes to school interventions: A rapid realist review. International journal of environmental research and public health. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36011609/
  5. NC;, M. (n.d.). Critical factors for active transportation to school among low-income and minority students. evidence from the 2001 National Household Travel survey. American journal of preventive medicine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18374248/

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