Safe Routes to School Program Census Project: 2019 National Program Assessment Report

The Safe Routes Partnership has released the first-ever national assessment of Safe Routes to School programs in the United States as part of a new report, “The Safe Routes to School Program Census Project: 2019 National Program Assessment Report.” This report provides an overview of the state of Safe Routes to School programming in the United States and a high-level assessment of challenges, innovations, and opportunities for Safe Routes to School programs. The findings in the report are based on a national survey of Safe Routes to School programs across the country, exploring policies, practices, and funding for programmatic activities, that was conducted in 2019.

Key lessons of the Safe Routes to School Program Census include:

  • Varied and diverse Safe Routes to School programs are present in almost every state across the nation.
  • Safe Routes to School programs have far too few resources to effectively reach all the children or schools in their regions. As a result, they may be forced to choose between having a strong and real impact on a few young people and having a very minor impact on many young people.
  • The absence of a centralized national initiative and dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School has not stopped or slowed Safe Routes to School programming efforts. But it has led to inefficiencies, programs running entirely through volunteer efforts, a range of structures and focuses, and variable effectiveness. 
  • There is a sizeable Safe Routes to School presence in rural areas, with program numbers roughly proportional to the rural population.
  • New programs are regularly emerging, and older programs are continuing and expanding; just under half of programs responding to the survey are less than 5 years old, while 30 percent have been in operation for 5 to 10 years, and 20 percent have been effecting change for more than 10 years.
  • Programs struggle to find the consistent funding they need to employ staff and develop strong and effective operations. A key challenge involves obtaining the support and coordination needed from school districts, towns and cities, and state governments to generate real benefits for children and communities.

In addition to the national census report, the Safe Routes Partnership conducted in-depth analyses of four states: Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Nevada.

The Safe Routes to School Program Census Project and this report were funded by the Center for Disease Prevention and Control’s Department of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, and developed by the Safe Routes Partnership in partnership with YMCA of the USA.


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