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Healthy School Environments

Safe Routes to Schools

A picture of students walking to school
Why It's Important
  • A lack of sidewalks, safe bike paths, and parks can discourage children from walking or biking to school as well as from participating in physical activity.
  • Walking or biking to school can help children meet the recommended levels of 60 or more minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on weekdays.
  • A 2010 CDC report found substantial evidence that physical activity can help improve academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores.
  • Having safe routes to school can also help reduce traffic, lower pollutants and improve the school district's bottom line by saving money on transportation.
What You Can Do
  • When making school location decisions, consider proximity to where students live, connections to transit, and how safe or easy it is to walk or ride a bicycle there.
  • Hold information sessions to educate the community on the benefits of walking and biking to school and on approaches to make walking and biking to school a safe alternative.
  • See the "Environmental Siting Criteria Considerations" in EPA's School Siting Guidelines for more information.
School Siting Guidelines
A figure depicting the cover of a document titled 'School Siting Guidelines'

These voluntary guidelines can be used to help communities protect the health of students and staff from environmental threats when selecting new school locations.

Find More From...

EPA and Federal Partners

  • Smart Growth and Schools on the EPA website discusses how to apply the principles of smart growth to educational facility planning to improve the quality of schools and communities together. The Web page lists EPA resources as well as other publications, presentations and organizations.
  • The Safe Routes to Schools Program Exit EPA Disclaimer from the U.S. Department of Transportation offers examples, training and funding for schools and communities to build and sustain programs.

National Organizations

  • National Center for Safe Routes to School Exit EPA Disclaimer strives to help states and communities enable and encourage children to safely walk and bicycle to school. The website provides tools for teachers and law enforcement as well as access to data, events and training, and information on funding. The center coordinates:
  • Helping Johnny Walk to School Exit EPA Disclaimer is a program run by the National Trust for Historic Preservation through a cooperative agreement with EPA. It brings together experts from the fields of education, health, transportation and community design with state partners to find new ways states can encourage community-centered schools.
  • The Community-Centered Schools Exit EPA Disclaimer page on the National Trust for Historic Preservation website presents schools’ success stories and offers tools for preserving historic schools, choosing restoration or replacement, and more.

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