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About Safe Routes to School

A group of students in backpacks smiling at each other as they walk two by two on a sidewalk. They all have their hands in their pockets on a chilly, October morning.
About the Safe Routes to School program at the Portland Bureau of Transportation.
On this page

What we do

Safe Routes to School makes it safe, convenient and fun for children of all abilities to bicycle, walk, and roll to school and around their neighborhoods. 

This job can't be done alone. A successful Safe Routes to School program is built on partnerships. The City of Portland's Bureau of Transportation, schools, neighborhoods, community organizations, and agencies work together to advocate for and implement programs that make walking and biking around our neighborhoods and schools fun, easy, safe, and healthy for all students and families.

This work also helps to alleviate harmful emissions from vehicle congestion around our schools and where students breathe and play.

Guiding principles

Together, with a Stakeholder Advisory Committee, we created these four guiding principals to serve as a road map for our continued program improvement and expansion:

  • Equitable
  • Grounded in partnership
  • Flexible and inclusive
  • Create culture change 


Our high level outcomes correlate to our Portland Bureau of Transportation strategic core goals for a more efficient and sustainable city. We do this work so that: 

  • No child is involved in a serious traffic crash accessing school or school programs
  • Every child who wants to walk, roll or take transit to school knows how to do so safely
  • Community members understand how Safe Routes to School programs are connected to congestion relief and climate change mitigation

Learn more about our plans to create a better future and a better now for Portland students in our Safe Routes to School 2018-23 Strategic Plan.

Program history

2000: A national conversation around Safe Routes to School programming begins. This sparks the formation of the Oregon Walk + Bike to School committee. 

2001: Bill 3712 (known as the "Safe Routes to School Bill") passes the Oregon House. The City of Portland partners with five schools to deliver school traffic safety services under the umbrella concept of "Safe Routes to School." Each school received $2,000 in state grants.

2005-06: Portland Safe Routes to School partners with eight schools in three districts (Portland Public, David Douglas, and Parkrose). We pilot the "5E Tools" of education, engineering, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation in our programming. Federal legislation establishes a national Safe Routes to School program. 

2011: Together with community stakeholders, Portland Safe Routes to School establishes policies for equitable service delivery. After operating for 10 years without formal policies, this was an intentional effort to provide a transparent and effective way of guiding the program into the future. Throughout the policies, there is an underlying theme of equity that promotes serving neighborhoods, families and students underserved by current transportation infrastructure and/or have other resource constraints. 

2013: Safe Routes to School programming extends to middle schools (6-8 grade campuses) as part of a three-year grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation. We now provide some level of service for more than 100+ schools across five districts within the Portland city limits. 

2018: To keep up with our changing city and growing population, we created our 2018-2023 Strategic Plan with the support and guidance of a Stakeholder Advisory Committee. This plan updated our program goals and the strategies to achieve them. 

2019: Guided by our strategic plan, we are working to make our overall program more sustainable. One of our goals is to develop a K-12 transportation education program to reach students at each grade level. An example of these updates is transitioning our Bike Safety Education from 4th and 5th grades into a middle school pilot program.

New middle school programming offers train-the-trainer classroom instruction in both PE and health classes, reaching students at least twice during the school year during their middle school career.