Safe Routes to School Programs in Rural California: A Guide for Communities and Partners

rural guide imageSafe Routes to School Programs in Rural California: A Guide for Communities and Partners explores the challenges of safe walking and bicycling to and from school in rural California.  The guide provides resources to help communities address those challenges through launching a SRTS program to conducting high-level planning for SRTS projects, as well as learning how other rural California communities have established and maintained successful SRTS programs. Download Safe Routes to School Programs in Rural California: A Guide for Communities and Partners here.


Below you will find two tools for exploring infrastructure needs around rural schools.  These tools are contained within the Safe Routes to School Programs in Rural California: A Guide for Communities and Partners document listed above.

Rural Walkability Audit Guide and Tool

The Rural Walkability Audit Guide and Tool addresses use of a walkability audit for the purpose of observing and evaluating the safety and accessibility issues around a school.  It includes how a walkability audit works, key people to include as well as ideas for sharing results.  A walkability audit guide is introduced, which can be used to collect information about a community’s environment.

Tool for Equitably Prioritizing Rural SRTS Projects

The Tool for Equitably Prioritizing Rural SRTS Projects offers insights on three categories of criteria to assess: school capacity, school internal need and school external need.  Each category is detailed with descriptions of indicators and follow-up steps for completing an inventory and a scoring process.  Resources to assist in the SRTS project prioritization are forms included within the tool: a SRTS Prioritization Metrics Tool, a School SRTS Inventory Survey, and a SRTS Prioritization Metrics Spatial Component Instructions.  This is an advanced planning tool designed to assist city/county engineers and planners in equitably prioritizing SRTS projects.


Many rural communities across the country have adapted SRTS programs and resources to fit the context of their unique small town and rural landscape.  The following summaries detail several specific rural SRTS resources that could serve as helpful tools for other rural communities starting SRTS efforts or further developing their programs.  These case studies and resources focus on a variety of approaches to making rural SRTS programs successful including funding mechanisms, resources for volunteers, and sample SRTS program materials.

Case Studies: California 

Case Studies National

Curriculum and Tool

Guidance Documents

Studies and Research

The Built Environment

Videos and Webinars

Case Studies: California

CA SRTS TARC – SRTS Rural and Urban Success Stories

These case studies developed by the California Safe Routes to School Technical Assistance Resource Center offer success stories ranging from detailed case studies to results oriented vignettes.  The resource page profiles a range of county types and details various strategic approaches to building capacity.  Detailed examples of successful walk to school day events are included as well.

Kern County – Rural Community Gets Mobilized

This is a brief case study of the City of Delano’s SRTS program, a community that received a Federal Cycle 2 non-infrastructure SRTS award.  This community faced barriers related to poverty and agricultural worker schedules.  They successfully enlisted local law enforcement to support the SRTS program.

Marin County – SchoolPool

This is a case study of Marin SchoolPool which is a rideshare and walk/bicycle to school program in Marin County that includes both rural and urban areas.  Interested parties must sign up to see the site and find rideshares or other parents and students with whom to walk or bicycle to school.  The site also has some information for parents and guardians, and a pledge feature for families to commit to be more active and minimize driving.  The site is designed well and is simple, engaging, and easy to use.  The site can also be viewed in Spanish and Chinese.

Case Studies: National

Iowa – Resource Conservation and Development Organization – SRTS Regional Program

This is a webpage for a SRTS program in a large area of Northeastern Iowa (5 counties, 13 school districts, and 34 schools), and includes a plan that contains infrastructure maps and parent surveys.  Other information available on this webpage includes Iowa Bicycle Coalition safety information, local food and physical fitness initiative links, and extensive surveys and data.  This site is administered by the Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development Organization.

Michigan – Hillside Learning and Behavior Center

This is a case study of Hillside Learning and Behavior Center which serves developmentally disabled students in the town of Allegan with a population of 5,000 residents.  This SRTS case study shares details about a program specifically designed to improve mobility and self-sufficiency of students.

Michigan – Roosevelt Elementary School SRTS Case Study

This is a case study of Roosevelt Elementary School which is located in Stevensville, Michigan, a semi-rural town.  The community had a lack of sidewalk infrastructure adjacent to the school.  The school received a SRTS award to improve infrastructure and also focus on non-infrastructure encouragement programs.  A SRTS plan was developed for the school.  It focused on all five E’s of SRTS.  Roosevelt Elementary School has seen a ten-fold increase in the number of students bicycling to school after the SRTS improvements.

Vermont – SRTS Program at State Street School

This is a case study of a parent-driven effort to implement a walking school bus program in the rural town of Windsor, Vermont.  Remote drop-off locations were established for those who lived too far away from school to walk the entire way.  Temporary signage was utilized to notify drivers of the additional pedestrian traffic during these walking school bus days.  A notable achievement of this program is that the number of students walking to school doubled during walking school bus days, and the traffic on those days decreased by 20 percent.

Curriculum and Tools

CA EPICenter

The California Department of Public Health’s EPICenter website is a portal for various safety, injury, and fatality data across the state.  It includes the Linked Crash Medical Outcomes (CMOD) Data tool which links data from police traffic crash records (i.e., scene investigations) to medical data (from emergency departments, hospitals, and, in a future update, fatality files).  Collisions can be analyzed by mode type, age, sex, and region in which they occurred.

California Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Curriculum for Grades 4 and 5

This curriculum and its on-line training, developed by the CA SRTS TARC in partnership with the California Department of Education’s Healthy Kids Resource Center, emphasizes the importance of physical activity, encourages students to develop healthy habits that benefit both their physical and academic development, and teaches skills and knowledge to decrease pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and fatalities.  To facilitate teaching of the Curriculum, each of the nine lessons is aligned with the California Common Core State Standards, the National Health Education Standards, and the California Health Education Standards, and is integrated with English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Health and Physical Education.  The Curriculum is the first of its kind to be approved by Caltrans, the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Education.  (2015 publication)

Crosswalk: Where the Needs of School Principals and Safe Routes to School Programs Intersect

This tool-kit, developed by the CA SRTS TARC in partnership with Brown Miller Communications with input from California school principals, highlights solutions to the most common barriers identified by principals and vice principals to supporting a SRTS program including: traffic safety, lack of funding for programs, and infrastructure concerns.  Multiple documents include information to help SRTS champions and program leaders think through effective communication strategies when approaching and engaging school principals.  A companion sheet provides tips on developing an effective relationship with school principals.  Additionally, three short fact sheets address the specific challenges of funding, traffic safety, and roadway infrastructure improvements.  (2014 publication)

Data Collection Tools – National Center for SRTS

The National Center for SRTS website offers helpful forms and evaluation tools including student travel tallies and parent surveys.

RTS District Policy Workbook

This interactive tool is designed to help school board members, administrators, families, students, and community members create and implement school district policies that support active transportation and Safe Routes to School programs.  The workbooks walks through a series of policy options to help build a customized Safe Routes to School policy, which can be downloaded and used in any community.  The workbook was written and designed through a collaboration between the SRTS National Partnership and ChangeLab Solutions.  (2014 publication)

Guidance Documents 

Youth Leaders for SRTS:  Facilitator’s Guide to Engaging Middle School Students This facilitator’s guide, developed by the SRTS TARC in partnership with the SRTS National Partnership, consists of ten lesson plans for adult facilitators to support middle school student leaders in student-led SRTS campaigns.  The campaigns are designed to increase awareness of the SRTS program among middle school and afterschool staff and community partners, and provide resources for student leaders to host SRTS activities.  Activities strive to increase the number of students safely walking and bicycling to and from school while contributing to more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly policies within schools and communities throughout California.  (2015 publication)

California School Crossing Guard Training Guidelines

This guidance resource, developed by the CA SRTS TARC, provides consistent and effective operating standards to assist local school crossing guard programs in training existing and new crossing guards, inform program practices, and supplant or supplement training procedures to promote safety among California’s children.  (2015 publication)

Creating Safe Routes to School Programs in Tribal Communities in California

This guide developed by the SRTS TARC provides education and resources for California’s tribal communities on developing a SRTS program and applying for funds to support a SRTS program.  Additionally, the document provides examples of SRTS activities that have been conducted in tribal communities, information on community outreach and data collection, and strategies for developing a SRTS plan.  (2015 publication) – Link coming soon

Fact sheets:

Funding:….pdf Traffic Safety:….pdf Roadway Infrastructure Improvements:….pdf

Cultivating Support for SRTS: A Guide to Building Relationships with School Board Members and Superintendents

This factsheet, developed by the SRTS National Partnership in collaboration with the Public Health Institute’s CA4Health program and with content development from the California Department of Public Health, provides an overview of why it is important to engage school district leaders, what results those relationships can achieve, and how to establish strong relationships.  (2014 publication)

Funding Guidance – National Center for SRTS

The National Center for SRTS website offers potential sources for SRTS funding as well as an overview of types of funding available.

Get Out and Get Moving: Opportunities to Walk to School Through Remote Drop-Off Programs

This fact sheet developed by the Public Health Institute’s CA4Health program, in collaboration with ChangeLab Solutions and with content development from the California Department of Public Health, helps school districts, parents, and active transportation advocates understand the legal implications of implementing a remote drop-off location program for students to safely walk to school and to determine whether it is appropriate for their community.  This fact sheet also includes a cost-benefit worksheet for school districts to assess the relative risks of implementing a remote drop-off location program versus existing drop-off practices.  (2014 publication)

Healthy Students, Thriving Districts: Including SRTS in District Policies

This factsheet, developed by the SRTS National Partnership in collaboration with the Public Health Institute’s CA4Health program and with content development from the California Department of Public Health, describes how school boards and superintendents can play a critical role in supporting walking, bicycling, and Safe Routes to School.  It also looks at opportunities for sustaining walking, bicycling and SRTS over time by including programs in district policies.  (2014 publication)

Implementing SRTS in Low-income Schools and Communities: A Resource Guide for Volunteers and Professionals

This guide, developed by the SRTS National Partnership, provides an introduction to SRTS programs for low-income schools, including rural areas.  Special emphasis is placed on high-crime areas and the safety challenges associated with these neighborhoods.  This guide also emphasizes ways to address common challenges such as limited parental involvement, distance issues, difficulty in galvanizing community support, shortage of staff expertise, traffic safety and built environment concerns.  While most of the case studies presented are of low-income urban areas, there are five brief case studies on rural SRTS programs: Crete, Nebraska; Burlington, Wyoming; Wymore-Blue Springs, Nebraska; East Moline, Illinois; and Martinsburg, West Virginia.  (2010 publication)

Incorporating SRTS into Local School Wellness Policies: A Model Policy to Encourage Active Transportation

This model school wellness policy language developed by the Public Health Institute’s CA4Health program, in collaboration with ChangeLab Solutions, addresses walking and bicycling to school.  The language can be tailored to meet the needs of an individual school district.  School districts will need to determine where to add the language to their existing school wellness policies, make other changes for consistency, and follow the appropriate procedures for amending their policies.  (2014 publication)

Minimizing Liability Risk: A Factsheet About SRTS Programs

This factsheet, developed by ChangeLab Solutions, provides information around negligence as well as helpful tips for reducing liability in a SRTS program.  (2012 publication)

Program Activity Examples

The CA SRTS TARC website has a variety of excellent program activity resources that can assist experts and newcomers in bolstering SRTS programs.  Examples include age appropriate lessons, on-line games and tools for children and youth, curricula and materials for diverse populations, parents and schools.  Program activity examples are located on the CA SRTS TARC website.

Program Activities – Low Cost

Working with a limited budget?  Consider the following low-cost SRTS four E’s Activities

The SRTS TARC website has a variety of excellent program activity resources that align with the four E’s (Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation) for promoting child pedestrian and bicycle safety throughout the school year.  Examples include ideas for organizing educational events and motivational activities, strategies for improving safety as well as low-cost treatments and more.  Located on the SRTS TARC website.

Rural Communities: A Two-Pronged Approach for Improving Walking and Bicycling

This factsheet, developed by the SRTS National Partnership addresses general issues of rural active transportation and, set an approach for how rural communities can support walking and bicycling more broadly.  (2015 publication)

Rural Communities: Best Practices and Promising Approaches for Safe Routes

This factsheet, developed by the SRTS National Partnership, delves into the challenges of SRTS in rural areas, and highlights successful rural SRTS programs and the innovative approaches to overcome hurdles.  (2015 publication)

Rural Communities: Making Safe Routes Work

This factsheet, developed by the SRTS National Partnership, provides an introduction to rural SRTS programs, highlighting why SRTS is beneficial for rural communities.  (2015 publication)

Walking School Bus Programs

This resource, developed by the National Center for SRTS, presents the basics and tools on how to start a walking school bus program.

Working With Your School District Board to Support Healthy, Active Students

This checklist, developed by the SRTS National Partnership in partnership with the Public Health Institute CA4Health program and with content development from the California Department of Public Health, offers questions and actions to consider when preparing to work with a school board in support of SRTS, whether through official school board policies, revised procedures, or other approaches.  (2014 publication)

Studies and Research

Buses, Boots and Bicycles: Exploring Collaboration Between STRS and School Busing Professionals to Get Children to School Safely and Healthily

This report, developed by the National Center for SRTS, presents a comprehensive look at student transportation in the United States and proposes ways that SRTS professionals and transportation directors can collaborate more effectively to ensure that all children safely access their local schools.  (2014 publication)

California – SRTS Program Low-Income Schools and Communities Study

This document by SRTS TARC emphasizes how SRTS programs can address income inequity from a programmatic perspective.  In particular, the study examines grant disbursement to low-income schools.  The document does not call out rural schools, but is applicable to rural low-income schools.  This document focuses primarily on the state policy-level of SRTS funding allocations.  (2010 publication)

Maine - Finding Strategies to Improve Pedestrian Safety in Rural Areas

This study, conducted by a Master of Science student for a thesis project, addresses pedestrian safety issues in rural New England.  The study emphasizes the factors that contribute to fatalities or severe injuries for pedestrians on rural roadways, as well as provides local data and modeling of sites.  The project breaks down types of communities, driver behavior, and pedestrian behavior.  The study also conducted an in-depth analysis of collisions in low-density residential communities, which includes undeveloped, rural areas.  The discussion of results includes a recommendation to narrow streets and make rural roadways more closely resemble urban roadways so that drivers are more attentive to the possibility of pedestrians sharing the road.  (2001 publication)

Missouri – Safe Routes Projects – Where are the projects happening?  Who are they reaching?

This report developed by the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation indicates that most SRTS funding in Missouri is going to rural and low-income schools as these rural areas generally have less pedestrian infrastructure and a more limited tax base to enable locally funded improvements.  The site contains many maps, and may be a useful model for reporting and visualizing rural SRTS funding.  (2011 publication)

The Built Environment

Getting Involved in Transportation Planning

This fact sheet, developed in collaboration by ChangeLab Solutions and TransForm, discusses the important link between transportation planning and health, describes the key players and processes of local and regional transportation planning, and suggests ways to advocate effectively for healthier transportation policies.  (2013 publication)

Integrating Safe Walking and Bicycling to School into Comprehensive Planning

Many communities are revising their general plans to include SRTS concepts and address walking and bicycling to and from school.  This document, developed by the National Center for SRTS, provides insight and strategies on how to embed SRTS into general plans.  (2014 publication)

Main Street, California: A Guide for Improving Community and Transportation Vitality

California State Highways serve as Main Streets for many rural communities.  This document developed by Caltrans’ Landscape Architecture Program, provides guidance to those communities to make prudent investments to improve multimodal travel for local residents and visitors.  Many of the design solutions highlighted in this guide will be familiar with slight variations of traditional strategies, while others will entail a new and broader vision of how Main Streets can benefit travelers and the local community.

Model General Plan Language Supporting SRTS: Support for Proposing and Adopting Strong Policies

This document developed by the Public Health Institute’s CA4Health program, in collaboration with ChangeLab Solutions and with content development from the California Department of Public Health, provides model general plan language that is intended to help health practitioners, transportation advocates, planners, and other stakeholders to propose and adopt strong policies that support of SRTS.  (2014 publication)

Rural Healthy Development Checklist

This document, developed by the Humboldt Partnership for Active Living with funding from The California Endowment, introduces connections between health and the built environment.  A checklist is provided as a comprehensive planning resource for rural counties.

Rural-Specific Engineering Information

Engineering strategies can improve the accessibility of walking and bicycling opportunities in a neighborhood, as well as make existing conditions safer.  “Engineering” is a broad concept used to describe the design, implementation, operation and maintenance of traffic control devices or physical measures, including low-cost as well as high-cost capital measures.  The CA SRTS TARC website offers several resources on engineering strategies.

Solano County Comprehensive SRTS Plan

Many communities are finding success in developing robust SRTS plans.  The Solano County Safe Routes to School Plan Update was released in 2013 and be viewed at the Solano Transportation Authority SRTS website

Videos and Webinars

Video: “Why SRTS Matters”

This informational video can be found on the National Center for SRTS website and is a great tool for educating new partners and stakeholders.

Webinar: Recruiting, Managing and Training SRTS Volunteers

The SRTS National Partnership has a library of recorded webinars covering various topics related to SRTS including two webinars on working with volunteers.

Webinar: SRTS in Rural Communities

This webinar is approximately one hour in length and includes three in-depth case studies of rural Mississippi communities and their SRTS programs, statistics about the region, as well as links to additional resources.  While the emphasis is on Mississippi communities, these examples and lessons learned can enhance other SRTS programs around the country.  The case studies selected were thoroughly examined and the rural nature of the project area is emphasized.   top