Department of Transportation

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Safe Routes to School (SRTS)?
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a federal, state and local effort to improve the health and well-being of children by enabling and encouraging children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school; make bicycling and walking to school a safer and more appealing transportation alternative, thereby encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age; and to facilitate the planning, development and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.
How do SRTS programs work?
Each participating school forms a local team consisting of school administrators, municipal officials, teachers, parents, student leaders, law enforcement officers and other interested community members. They work together to assess attitudes and behaviors of parents and students, analyze the physical environment leading to the school and research related policies. The teams then make recommendations and create an action plan.
Who is in charge?
Each school manages its own SRTS program. The school principal or other school administrator generally has the final word on program policy and implementation. However, a team member may be designated to lead the program and set goals and timelines.
What is the rationale behind SRTS?
According to a study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), most of today’s parents walked or biked to elementary school when they were young. They explored their neighborhoods regularly on bike or on foot that offered them independence and resulted in self-assurance.

By contrast, children today are driven to nearly all of their activities and only 10 percent walk to school every day. There are several reasons for this sharp decline. The journey between home and school has become longer and more treacherous because of decades of auto-oriented suburbanization. This pattern has been compounded by the trend towards building new schools at a distance from residential areas.

In addition, parents fear exposing their children to threats from strangers and motor vehicles. And finally, in many communities, sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, and trails are either missing or inadequate. SRTS Programs attempt to address these issues.
What are the benefits of a SRTS program?
A successful Safe Routes to School program benefits children in several ways. When routes are safe, walking or biking to and from school is an easy way to get the regular physical activity children need for good health. Studies have shown that physically active kids have improved mood and concentration, a stronger self-image and more self-confidence. Physically active kids also have fewer chronic health problems and report lower levels of smoking and alcohol consumption.

It’s also fun! Research shows that walking or riding is children’s preferred method of getting to school. There’s so much to see, smell, touch, think, and talk about. By walking with friends, children will build relationships and learn more about their neighborhood, their friends, and themselves.

Safe Routes to School initiatives help the environment by easing traffic jams and curbing air pollution. Research has shown that 25 percent of morning traffic is parents driving their students to school. Fewer car trips also mean lower gasoline bills, a significant factor with today’s higher prices.
Do SRTS programs actually work?
Yes! The Marin County, California, Safe Routes to School program (the first of its kind in the U.S.) reported a 64 percent increase in the number of students walking to school, a 114 percent increase in the number of children bicycling and a 39 percent decrease in the number of children arriving singly by private car.

Several schools in New Jersey have already made changes in their environments such as re-striping crosswalks, starting walking school buses (supervised group walks to and from school) and redesigning their dropoff and pickup points at school entrances.
Isn't walking and biking to school dangerous?
Walking and biking to school can indeed be dangerous. One of the goals of a Safe Routes to School program is to identify potential hazards on the school grounds and adjacent neighborhoods and develop plans to address them. Even when routes to and from school are ostensibly safe, risks remain.

However, the current reliance on automobiles to transport children represents a different kind of risk: the long-term risks from a sedentary lifestyle. The portion of children who are overweight or obese has tripled in the last 25 years. Health experts are predicting that rates of diseases associated with physical inactivity, such as diabetes, will soar as the next generation comes of age.
What are some of the barriers to walking and biking to school?
The main barriers to walking and bicycling to school are community design, safety, time and convenience.

Many neighborhoods, especially new subdivisions, aren’t designed for the convenience of the pedestrian. They do not have sidewalks or safe crossings, or are too far from the school to walk or bicycle.

Neighborhoods that have high traffic volumes and speeds cause fear for children’s safety. In addition, perceptions of crime deter people from allowing their children to walk to school, for example, concern about child abduction.

Time and convenience are another factor. People believe that it is more convenient to drop their child off at school on their way to work. Safe Routes to School addresses these concerns by promoting safe walk and bike to school programs, such as walking school buses.
What is a "walking school bus"?
A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. It works like this: an adult or group of adults begin walking along a set route to school. As they walk, they make “bus stops” and “pick up” other children along the way.
What is "traffic calming"?
The Institute of Transportation Engineers defines traffic calming as “changes in street alignment, installation of barriers, and other physical measures to reduce traffic speeds and/or cut-through volumes in the interest of street safety, livability and other public purposes.”

Traffic calming measures can include: narrowing the street by reducing the number of lanes; building speed bumps or humps; adding traffic circles or roundabouts; adding raised pedestrian crosswalks; converting two-way streets to one-way streets; adding of curb extensions or “bulb-outs.”
What is a "walking audit"?
A walking audit is a report done by parents, school administrators and other community members who tour the school property and adjacent neighborhoods to look for routes students can safely use to get to school.

Audits reveal what students experience during their walk to school and give school teams firsthand evidence of existing safety problems. The audits are generally done during school arrival and dismissal times.

The audits typically focus on the walking and biking routes currently used to travel to school, the walking and biking routes that could be used to travel to school and the school property itself, especially pick-up and drop-off sites used by buses and parents.
What is Walk to School Day?
Walk to School Day, like SRTS, is a school-based initiative to encourage physical activity among children. However, it is a one-day event and not a continuing program like SRTS.

Walk to School Day has become the kick-off event for Safe Routes to School and is usually held the first week in October. It is a way for parents, students, school personnel and other community members to directly experience the trip to school on foot as they walk and bike with students on the day of the event. Many schools incorporate bicycling initiatives into their Walk (and Bike) to School Day Events. It often generates discussions on the importance of physical activity, awareness of the fun of walking and biking, and early identification of safety concerns.
What are the 5 E's?
The SRTS Program is organized around five complimentary strategies known as the "5 E's". They are:
  • Engineering: Making the environment safer for walking and bicycling
  • Encouragement: Encouraging kids to walk and bike to school more often
  • Education: Teaching kids and parents safe ways to walk and bike
  • Evaluation: Checking to see how many kids are walking and biking as a result of the program or how conditions have improved
  • Enforcement: Changing driver, walker and bicyclist behavior as they travel together along the road
Projects that incorporate all five E's are likely to be more effective and sustainable.
Are there other resources?
The New Jersey Safe Routes to School Toolbox provides information and materials on launching a Safe Routes to School Program. The New Jersey SRTS Resource Center assists schools and communities with education, encouragement, enforcement, evaluation, planning and other non-construction related SRTS activities. The Resource Center can put you in contact with your regional coordinator at your Transportation Management Association (TMA). The eight TMAs in New Jersey work directly with communities to implement SRTS programs. Common services include: walking school bus set up and training, International Walk to School month planning and participation, youth bicycle education, marketing, recruitment and promotion of SRTS programs and events within their region and evaluation and feedback on local programs. TMAs also assist communities that have completed School Travel Plans with implementing findings and applying for funding.

The TMAs operate within specific regions. They are:
  • Cross County Connection
    (Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties)
  • Greater Mercer TMA
    (Mercer County, Montgomery Township in Somerset County and Ocean County)
  • goHunterdon
    (Hunterdon County)
  • Hudson TMA
    (Hudson County)
  • Keep Middlesex Moving
    (Middlesex County)
  • EZ Ride
    (Bergen and western portions of Hudson counties, eastern portions of Passaic, Union and Essex counties)
  • RideWise
    (Somerset County, except for Montgomery Township)
  • TransOptions
    (Morris, Sussex, Warren, and western portions of Passaic and Essex counties)
Where can I find bicycle and pedestrian safety information?
There are several sources. The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) offers free bicycle and pedestrian safety information. The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center web site has links to several educational publications. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center is an information clearinghouse about health and safety, engineering, advocacy, education and enforcement.
How do I apply for SRTS funding?
Funding is periodically made available for infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects. Infrastructure projects include the planning, design and construction or installation of sidewalks, crosswalks, signals, traffic-calming and bicycle facilities. Non-infrastructure projects include activities such as public awareness campaigns, walk and bike to school events and training, traffic education and enforcement and student lessons on bicycle and pedestrian safety, health and the environment.
Where can I find information about designing pedestrian or bicycle facilities?
NJDOT has design guidelines for bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) of the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Accommodating Bicycle and Pedestrian Travel: A Recommended Approach are helpful.

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center is a clearinghouse for information about health and safety, engineering, advocacy, education, enforcement and access and mobility.

The AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities and Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan are also recommended.

Last updated date: October 3, 2019 10:07 AM