Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Safe Routes to School

For educators

Why Safe Routes?

Safe Routes Minnesota provides funding to community and school groups to make improvements to the routes your children use to walk and bike to school. Communities around schools suffer from traffic congestion and the stress that comes with it. Neighborhood environments suffer from toxins released by cars polluting the air we breath. Children are becoming less active and more overweight.

Safe Routes Minnesota takes a holistic approach to all these problems, 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 reap the benefits instantly – children, parents, neighbors, plants, animals and the air all become healthier and happier.

It's up to you – however you get involved with Safe Routes Minnesota, your actions with have a positive ripple effect.

Get started

Safe Routes to School program or Safe Routes Minnesota is here to help. We provide funding to schools to make improvements to the routes children use to walk and bike to school. These improvements may include physical infrastructure changes (like sidewalks and pathways) or non-infrastructure programs (like incentives and educational materials for families).

The six steps to getting started with Safe Routes

Step 1: Read the application instructions
Learn the requirements for funding. Once you know if your school and your initial project ideas qualify, you're ready to move forward.

Step 2: Bring the right people together
Find out how your school district and town handle things like this, and make sure to include everyone you need to keep the projects moving. For more information on developing strategic partnerships, see the Community Partnership Handbook in the Marketing Toolkit section.

Step 3: Identify problems
Once you've got your group of key players together, you can all discuss problems that may be keeping your students from walking and biking to school. You'll want to address all these things as you build your program.

Step 4: Develop a plan
Now that your committee has determined what keeps kids from walking and biking to school, it's time to develop strategies to address each issue. You're likely to find more than one reason your students aren't walking or biking. Make sure your plan addresses all the issues. Be direct. Be bold. All fund recipients must have a comprehensive plan for building, promoting, and maintaining safe routes to school.

Step 5: Apply for funds
Use your plan as the basis for your funding application. Consult the application guidelines and begin moving through the funding process.

Step 6: Implement your program
Once you've been approved for funds, you can start implementing your plan. It's a good idea to appoint one or two people to oversee the implementation of the Safe Routes to School plan.

Promote your Safe Routes project

Once your Safe Routes to School program is funded and in place, it's time to make sure your students are participating. For promotional materials, see the Marketing Toolkit section. Here are some ways you can help promote your program and make sure it's having the impact it should.

Get your classroom in the game

  • During attendance, acknowledge the number of students who walked or biked to school.
  • Teach your kids the benefits of walking and biking as well as safe walking and biking practices. Use our classroom activities to get you started.
  • Start a Rewards Program Guide that tracks how often your kids walk or bike to school and rewards them after a certain number.

Encourage school-wide participation

  • Have a school-wide kickoff event.
  • Put up posters around the school to remind everyone about the importance of walking and biking to school and how to do it safely.

Involve the parents

  • Send home "backpack mail" about the program.
  • At parent/teacher conferences, encourage parents to talk to their kids about walking and biking to school to increase their activity levels.

Take it to the community

  • Post signs around the school so drivers will know to expect children crossing.
  • Have the local media cover your school's kickoff event. Interviews with teachers, kids, and parents can reinforce the importance of activity to the community and keep community members on the lookout for kids walking/biking to school

Educating your students about benefits of walking/biking to school

As a teacher, you have a tremendous opportunity to make sure your students understand the health benefits of walking and biking to school as well as how to do it safely,

Safe Routes Minnesota can help with standards-based activities appropriate for each grade level. Working these activities into your lesson plans can help your students learn about walking and biking safety, and the importance staying active.

For more details and assistance with classroom activities or share your success stories, contact Minnesota's Safe Routes to School Coordinator.

Common concerns and responses

The primary reason kids don't walk or bike to school is that parents are too busy, it's faster to drive the kids or they're afraid for their kids' safety. Here are some easy ways to help parents see through their fears and busy schedules and understand the benefits of walking and biking to school.

"There's no safe route to school for my kids or I'm worried about crime in the neighborhood."

Response: Actually, we're in the process of making changes that'll make it safer for kids to walk and bike to school safely. Saferoutes to School will make it easier and safer for kids to walk to school.

"I don't have time to walk my kids to school."

Response: What about a supervised walking school bus, where you take turns with other parents picking kids up and walking or biking with them to school? If you get enough parents involved, you'll only have to do it a few times. Or maybe you could drop your kids off a few blocks from school and let them walk from there. That'll take you less time than driving them all the way in.

"I don't think my child should be crossing streets."

Response: Experts say that kids 10 and older are okay to cross streets unsupervised. As long as your kids know the rules of the road, traffic really shouldn't be a concern that gets in the way of their health.

"I'm afraid my child will be taken by a stranger."

Response: To start out, you can walk the route with your child and make sure he knows people along the way. The neighbors along the route are (will be) aware that it is a safe route and are there to help. Also, if your child walks with a group of children or in a walking school bus, he or she will be safer from strangers. Most importantly, be sure your child knows not to talk to strangers and to run for help if he feels threatened. Strangers really shouldn't be a problem.

"We live too far away from the school."

Response: You can drive your child halfway so she can get exercise by walking or biking the rest of the way. This way, you can help your child pick the best route to the school. It'll also help you save time because you're not driving all the way to school, and you'll avoid the headaches of all the parents trying to drop their kids off at the same time.

"I just don't think it's a good idea."

Response: Walking and biking regularly will help your kids stay healthy now and develop habits that'll ensure they live long, healthy lives. The more children who walk and bike to school, the less auto traffic and less gas used. The less traffic, the less air and noise pollution and decreased chances of respiratory problems in growing children. When children walk or bike, rather than ride in a car, neighborhoods reap the benefits instantly – children, parents, neighbors, plants, animals and the air all become healthier and happier.