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Safe Routes to School

Safe Routes to School

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs are federal-funded sustained efforts by community members and governments to enable and encourage children to safely walk or bicycle to school.

Making Walking to Maryland Schools Safer

  • The SRTS program:
    • Brings together parents and school administrators and teachers, along with other community groups and agencies, to improve the sfety of children who walk or bicycle to school;
    • Enables and encourages children in grades K-8, including those with physical limitations, to walk and bicycle to school;
    • Makes walking and bicycling to school a safer and more appealing transportation alternative, encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from a very early age; and
    • Facilitates projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution in the vicinity of elementary and middle schools.
  • Funds can be used for engineering improvements, such as upgrades to crosswalks, traffic signals and signage around schools, as well as for educational and enforcement efforts.
  • Grants are distributed to state, local and regional agencies, as well as non-profit organizations.
  • Approximately $5.8 million in grants have been awarded to 20 jurisdictions around the State.

Why Safe Routes to School?

  • As traffic volumes have increased, some parents have felt less comfortable letting their children walk or ride bicycles to school.
  • According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 85 percent of children's trips to school are made by car or school bus; only 13 percent of school trips are made by walking or bicycling.
  • The increase in car trips to schools has added to growing traffic congestion and created gridlock near school drop-off and pick-up lines. This often fuels aggressive driving by drivers stuck in these traffic jams.
  • Walking to school helps children feel more connected to their community and increases their confidence that school is a safe place for learning.
  • Teachers report that students who walk and bike to school arrive more alert and ready to work.
  • On average, 100 people die each year in pedestrian-related incidents.

What a Safe Routes to School project looks like

Qualifying projects enhance the route to school through both infrastructure and non-infrastructure improvements. The infrastructure projects are sidewalks, crosswalks, signage, pedestrian signals and bike racks. Non-infrastructure projects include education/encouragement programs, targeted law enforcement efforts, safety training, walking school bus and media outreach.

Bike racks at Saint Ambrose School in Cheverly, MD Speed limit signs in New Carrollton, MD

The goal of SRTS

  1. Where it is safe, encourage kids to walk.

  2. Pedestrian sign in New Carrollton, MD

  3. Where it is not safe, make changes

  4. Before a SRTS project in Wicomico County, MD After a SRTS project in Wicomico County, MD

How the program works

The Safe Routes to School program is built around what we call the five "E's". These words, beginning with the letter e, serve as techniques to guide the design and implementation process while providing information about the program.
  1. Education: educating students, parents and neighbors of safe practices. This includes being aware of each other (neighbor/student, parent/student, neighbor/parent) and adding simple techniques to ensure the safety of those involved.
  2. Encouragement: encouraging the school, neighbors and parents to embrace the idea. Provide incentives for being walking or biking to school. Host events such as a walking school bus, walking Wednesdays, walking/wheeling Wednesdays and bicycle trains. Other encouragement opportunities include events hosted by after school clubs and organizations.
  3. Enforcement: any changes made to improve and introduce alternatives to getting to school should be monitored. This provides an opportunity for students, parents and community members and crossing guards to enforce the changes. Law enforcement monitors these volunteers and wider scope of the schools premises.
  4. Engineering: making changes to floating and semi permanent elements like signage, outdoor furniture, crossing areas and sidewalks. These changes will slow down traffic, add a safe place for bikers to travel and provide more accessibility for students to get to school.
  5. Evaluation: observing the area to note the existing conditions. Are the sidewalks in good shape? Are the crosswalks visible? Is there a bike lane? Paying attention to where drop-off/pick-up happens. Is it organized? is it safe? What is the distance between the drop-off spot and the school's entrance? Watching where students travel. Are they biking or walking? Is there a path for them to walk? Monitoring traffic patterns. How much traffic is there? How fast are the drivers going? are they driving safely? Note these observations whether they are in good condition or not. What needs improvement? What is working well?


The Federal-aid Safe Routes to School Program (SRTS) was created by Section 1404 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users Act( SAFETEA-LU), signed into Public Law (P.L. 109-59) on August 10, 2005. As of July 6, 2012 MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act) was signed into law. This Act established the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). It combines three funding programs the Transportation Enhancement, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails.

Federal funds allocated to this program are available for infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects, and to administer State Safe Routes to School programs that benefit elementary and middle school children in grades K-8.

Eligible Sponsors for SRTS projects

  • Local governments
  • Regional transportation authorities
  • Transit agencies
  • Natural resource or public land agencies
  • School districts, local education agencies, or schools
  • Tribal governments
  • Any other local or regional governmental entity with responsibility for or oversight of transportation or recreational trails (other than a metropolitan planning organization or a State agency) that the State determines to be eligible, consistent with the goals of this subsection


Under SAFETEA-LU the program provided 100% federal funds for awarded projects. SHA will continue to award 100% funding until the remaining SAFETEA_LU funds have been expended. Once the funding has been expended, the project's sponsor will be awarded 80% of the project's total cost, but will have to provide a 20% non-federal transportation cash match as stated in the feral requirements. There is currently no minimum or maximum dollar amount for a request.

Getting Started

  1. Get the school's participation because it is the primary source of funding. (The sponsor may be primary source of funding)
  2. Determine what is preventing students from walking/biking to school. If the problems has multiple tiers then figure out what can be done first and what can wait.
  3. Research unique and cost effective ways to improve and promote the walk/or bike ride to school.
  4. Look to the criteria as a guide to ensure the project qualifies for this program.
  5. Have a plan for construction along with a plan of action and timeline (general idea of how long this project will take to construct and estimate).
  6. Fill out the application and provide other relevant documents.

Program Resources

Additional Resources

Please contact us at:

Safe Routes to School Program
Maryland State Highway Administration
Regional and Intermodal Planning Division
707 N. Calvert Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 410-545-5675
Fax: 410-209-5025
Email: JShearer@sha.state.md.us