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FAQs for Parents

This page contains frequently asked questions about the Minnesota Safe Routes to School program. To make it easier to navigate, the questions are split into two categories: Parents and SRTS Partners and Implementers.

What is Safe Routes to Schools?

Safe Routes to School is a federal, state and local effort to enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school - and to make walking and bicycling to school safe and appealing. Safe Routes to School programs include education and promotional activities, as well as engineering improvements to create a safer walking and biking environment.

Why Safe Routes?

Communities around schools suffer from traffic congestion and the issues that come with it. Neighborhood environments suffer from toxins released by cars polluting the air we breathe. Children are becoming less active and more overweight.

Safe Routes to School works by creating a positive effect on neighborhood and school communities through a simple solution: helping children walk and bike to school via safe routes. When this happens, neighborhoods and communities benefit.

What are the benefits for my child to walk or bike to school?

Studies show that there are many benefits of children who are physically active. Walking or biking to school is a great way for your child to get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Getting activity through walking and bicycling helps reduce behavior problems and helps kids settle in for learning during the school day. Kids who walk or bike to school are more alert and focused and are in a better mood when school starts. Kids who are physically active also have high confidence, and fewer health problems such as childhood obesity. Commuting with neighborhood friends may also serve as a fun, adventurous way to get to school!

What is the Minnesota Safe Routes to School Resource Center?

The Minnesota Safe Routes to School Resource Center is a valuable website for all Safe Routes to School partners. The purpose of the resource center is to provide SRTS tools, technical resources, and information needed for all partners – including parents, teachers, students, schools, school districts, communities, and others. The Resource Center contains information about the Minnesota Safe Routes to School program, resources and tools for planning a SRTS program, SRTS success stories, information about the 5 E’s of SRTS, current programs in Minnesota, and other news and events related to Minnesota Safe Routes to School.

How does Safe Routes work?

Safe Routes to School improvements may include physical infrastructure changes and non-infrastructure programs.

  1. Community and school groups work together to assess the safety of existing routes to school and potential new safe routes. The SRTS team also looks at existing SRTS programs and opportunities to start or expand activities.
  2. The group develops a prioritized action plan for improvements and a plan for developing a comprehensive Safe Routes program in the community.
  3. The plan might go through outreach for comments and input from the community and may be adopted by the school or city council. Once adopted, the school or community can begin to complete action steps in the plan. Some action steps, such as developing a Walking Wednesdays program, may begin immediately. Policy changes (providing bike education for all third graders) and infrastructure improvements may take several years to complete.
  4. In the end, children travel a safer path to school...and a healthier path into adulthood.
Infrastructure examples
  • Traffic-calming devices (medians, speed humps, speed feedback signs)
  • Biking/Walking trails
  • ADA compliant sidewalks and curb ramps
  • Additional crosswalks and traffic signals
Non-Infrastructure examples
  • Incentive programs that rewards kids for walking/biking
  • Educational materials to teach kids safety techniques
  • Public education about driving safely around schools

At what age can children walk to school by themselves?

There is no state or federal law setting a legal age minimum before children can walk to school alone. You may want to contact the school district or local police department where your child attends to determine if they have a policy that prohibits children under a certain age from walking to school alone.

Children vary in their readiness to handle traffic situations, such as choosing a safe time to cross a street, even if they are in the same grade. In general, children are not ready to cross a street alone until age 10. Ideally parents are a central figure in their children's safety education. Parents have the best opportunities to effectively assess their individual child's skills and teach safe behavior in the course of daily life so they should be encouraged to participate in their child's safety education. It is less a matter of chronological age, and more about whether children have demonstrated they can safely walk and cross streets independently. For additional information about when children are ready to walk alone, see the resource developed by the National Center for Safe Routes to School called Teaching Children to Walk Safely as They Grow and Develop.

What is Walk to School Day?

Walk to School Day is an annual event held each October where students are joined by parents, school personnel, and other community members to walk and bike to school on the day of the event. Walk to School Day began as a one-day event in 1997 and has evolved into an annual celebration as part of a movement for Safe Routes to School. Today, thousands of schools from across the United States participate, including from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Walk to School day will be held on October 7th, 2015.

What is a ‘Walking School Bus’?

A walking school bus is a group of children who walk to school on designated routes with adult supervision, while picking up kids along the route, just like a school bus. For some neighborhoods, it's a casual group walk, while others set up a formal plan with adults scheduled to walk on certain days.

What are the 5 Es?

The 5 Es are strategies of a comprehensive SRTS Program, which include: engineering, enforcement, education, encouragement and evaluation. The most effective Safe Routes to School programs include elements of all of the 5 Es. For complete definitions of the 5 Es, please see the Glossary page.

How can parents get more involved with Safe Routes to School?

There are many opportunities for involvement with SRTS! First, we encourage you to contact your local school or school district to learn more information and determine if they have a SRTS program or plan. If they do not, you can help form a team of partners and community members to create a program! The resource center has many different tools to get you started. Other opportunities include volunteering to lead a walking school bus or assist with a local SRTS event such as a bike rodeo!