Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Safe routes to school improve mental and physical health

New research review highlights evidence on walking and biking rates, safety, and economic issues associated with Safe Routes to School.

Most school children in the U.S. get to school by bus or car, with only a small percentage walking or biking. In 2005, Congress created the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program to improve safety and increase the number of children walking and biking to and from school through educational efforts, encouragement programs, and road improvements at or near schools. Research studies indicate that SRTS has increased rates of walking and biking and improved safety. Studies also show the program is an economically sound investment that can decrease health costs and school transport costs.

The research review shows that:
  • Actively commuting to and from school could improve mental and physical health.
  • SRTS has increased the number of students who walk or bike to and from school.
  • Unsafe routes make it harder for students to walk or bike to and from school. SRTS has made it safer for students to walk or bike to or from school.
  • SRTS can lower health care and transportation costs for school districts and families.
  • Communities can take action on SRTS through subdivision regulations that require sidewalks, education facility plans that ensure access to school by foot and bicycle, school wellness policies that include Safe Routs to School, and capital improvement plans that prioritize engineering improvements near schools.

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