Active travel or active transportation means using physical energy to get around. Walking, biking, skating, and riding scooters, are all forms of active transportation. Many times, people who ride public transit also partake in active transportation as they walk or bike to and from the bus or train station. Benefits of active transportation can include personal health as well as that of the environment and the local economy. It also provides mobility for all, including physically challenged, elderly, children and economically disadvantaged people.
Active travel is beneficial for children as it helps them achieve their recommended physical activity level and inspires a lifetime of active transportation.. According to the study, children who are involved in active travel to school have a greater potential for not only better physical health but also better mental health, intellectual development, and social development. It has also been reported that if children are not involved in physical activity while they are young, they are more likely to have a lower levels of physical activity as they grow older. other recent studies show that only 12.7 percent of children walk or bike to school.
How can we encourage more students to walk and bike to school? There are a variety of answers, including physical improvements (infrastructure improvements), school programs (promotion activities and staff training), and government support (through policies and funding). These different aspects make combine to create a successful active travel to school initiative.
In 2005, Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) was established. Under this bill, funding was dedicated to Safe Route to School (SRTS) in each state. SRTS promotes active travel to school through infrastructure improvements, school programs, incentives for active travel, and enforcement. SRTS programs are implemented by local departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, local governments, and schools. In New Jersey, the Department of Transportation provides competitive SRTS funding grants to projects that directly support active travel to school through education, engineering, encouragement, evaluation, and enforcement. The SRTS program has been very successful and popular across the state in helping children walk and bicycle to their school
Currently, over 300 SRTS programs and events are active throughout New Jersey. Every year, students and parents all around New Jersey celebrated the International Walk and Bike to School Day. These kinds of events highlight and encourage higher levels of physical activity, bicycle and pedestrian safety, and environmental preservation through the promotion of active transportation. These events not only affect an individual’s health but also strengthens the relationship and connections between families, schools and their communities.
A new round of SRTS funding is expected later this year. For more information on the Safe Routes to School Programs, please visit the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website here https://www.transportation.gov/mission/health/Safe-Routes-to-School-Programs.
For more information on New Jersey Safe Routes to School programs, please visit their website here https://www.saferoutesnj.org/
Learn more about NJDOT grants on their website, here:
 Sirard, John R., et al. “Physical Activity and Active Commuting to Elementary School.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, vol. 37, no. 12, 2005, pp. 2062–2069., doi:10.1249/01.mss.0000179102.17183.6b.
 McDonald, Noreen C., et al. “U.S. School Travel, 2009: An Assessment of Trends.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 41, no. 2, Aug. 2011, pp. 146–151., doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2011.04.006.