Safe Routes to School: Santa Clara

Santa Clara County, CA (2015-2016)

In collaboration with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department 

Project Goals:

Increase and maintain Safe Routes to School program engagement among residents and community stakeholders, and generate community-defined improvements to support walking and biking to school.

Guiding Question:

"What makes it easy or hard to walk or bike to school?"

Project Description:

U.S. Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a national program promoting safe options for walking/biking to school. SRTS has been shown to increase physical activity among school-aged children by advocating for more bicycle and pedestrian education, school wellness policies, along with engineering improvements.

A big challenge with Safe Routes to School is maintaining engagement among residents and community stakeholders. For this reason, SRTS sought to employ the Our Voice approach and see if it increased community participation across two groups. 

In Investigation 1, two elementary schools were compared. 6 adult citizen scientists participated from School A (which employed Our Voice with the Safe Route to School program) and 5 parent and community volunteers particpated from School B (employing only Safe Routes to School).

In Investigation 2, two middle schools were compared, with 26 particpating middle school citizen scientists.


Investigation 1 (2015)

After project completion, participants from School A (Safe Routes to School + Our Voice) held twice as many SRTS team meetings and action planning activities compared to School B (only Safe Routes to School). A team of six School A parents also become involved in managing the Safe Routes to School program, while no parent volunteers were identified at School B.

School A reported more Safe Routes to School events than School B, as well as a 48% greater number of SRTS program engagement activities.

In total, walking/biking to school increased from 5.3% to 30% in School A but decreased from 17.7% to 15.0% in School B.

Investigation 2

After Investigation 2, the 26 middle school citizen scientists engaged in 14 engagement activities, including four Safe Routes to School team meetings, stakeholder advocacy meetings, and improvement identification exercises.

Strengths Identified:

  • The current Safe Routes to School program did increase physical activity when traveling to school

Identified Areas for Improvement:

  • Concerns with traffic flow/traffic violations  
  • Broken sidewalks 
  • Lack of crosswalks 
  • Lack of pedestrian/bicyclist education  
  • A problematic intersection dangerous for pedestrians 

Learn more:

Check out this SCOPE article highlighting the SRTS middle school project.

Activities and Outcomes:

In Investigation 1, parents participated in and organized Safe Routes to School engagement activities. 

In Investigation 2, students described their findings to stakeholders such as school administration, the Gilroy City Public Works and Police Departments, and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.

These advocacy efforts resulted in:

  • The development of a Community Task Force
  • The establishment of "Walking Wednesdays," a "Walking School Bus", and a bike assembly at the school to promote safe riding
  • A collaboration with city engineers on the development of a 3-year action plan
  • The installation of 2 additional school bike racks 
  • An overall increased percentage of elementary school children walking or biking to school


Associated Publications:

Rodriguez, NM, Arce, A, Kawaguchi, A, Hua, J, Broderick, B, Winters, SJ, King, AC. Enhancing safe routes to school programs through community-engaged citizen science: two pilot investigations in lower density areas of Santa Clara County, California, USA. BMC Public Health. 2019 Oct, 19, 256. doi:

Project Leads:

Nichol M. Rodriguez and Alisa Arce

Our Voice Impact

"This experience has changed my life.  I see inadequacies everywhere I go as it relates to pedestrian access and safety.  I even stop [at] construction sites to remind them to be considerate of the handicapped in our community.  Thank you all so much for this awareness and empowerment to require change."

~ Pam Jiner, GirlTrek Advocacy Leader, Denver CO