Guidelines for Choosing a Safe Bicycle Route To School

Kevin Karplus
Effective Cycling Instructor
13 July 2000

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This page ( is intended as a supplement to the "guidelines for choosing a safe route to school" in The safest route to school project: a teacher's guide (AAA pamphlet #3213), which gives guidelines only suitable for pedestrians.

Choosing a safe bicycle route to school is different from choosing a safe walking route---bicyclists and pedestrians have different needs for maximum safety. The higher speed of bicyclists increases the need for visibility, smooth surfaces, and predictable interaction with other road users.

Note also that bicycle skills vary among students more than walking skills do, and they are usually acquired at a later age. Younger children have less skill at estimating closing speed for automobiles and have less ability to process peripheral vision. Younger children should therefore cycle mainly on less complicated streets, where they can focus on one hazard at a time. Older students will cycle faster, and so they need to have longer sight lines. Routes suitable for high schoolers may be unsuitable for elementary school students, and vice versa.

Publishing recommended routes to school is not sufficient for encouraging bicycling to school. Other measures are also needed, including bicycle education, safe bike parking, rewards for cycling (such as bike-to-school days), bike-to-school "bus" groups lead by an adult, and so forth.

When choosing safe bicycle routes to school, look for

A specific example of following these guidelines for Westlake Elementary School in Santa Cruz, CA can be found at

Alan Wachtel and Diana Lewiston, "Risk factors for bicycle-motor vehicle collisions at intersections", ITE Journal, September 1994, 30-35.

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