June 9, 2014, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The problem. In 1969, more than 40 percent of U.S. schoolchildren ages 5 to 18 walked or bicycled to school. By 2009, this number had declined to 12.7 percent. A 2008 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigating why more children do not walk to school found traffic safety to be the second most common barrier, after distance to school.
In 1999, California became the first state to approve legislation creating a Safe Routes to School program (SR2S). Eight years later, in 2007, legislative bill AB 57 extended the program indefinitely with funding provided from the State Highway Account at an annual amount of $24.25 million. Projects are identified through a statewide competition and require a 10 percent local match. They support engineering modifications near schools, such as new traffic lights, bike lanes, pathways, and sidewalks in the vicinity of schools serving K–12 students with the goal of making walking and biking easier and safer for children.
David Ragland, Director of the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) at the University of California, Berkeley, led the research team studying the long-term impact of the improvements on walking and bicycling levels and on safety. Continue reading