Promoting Safe Routes for Older Adults

April 26, 2018

Whether rural, suburban or urban dweller, transportation for older adults is a critical lifeline to meet the needs of daily living, maintain independence and enable social connection.

Walking and bicycling are important transportation alternatives to motor vehicle travel. They are also important sources of physical activity and social connectedness for older adults.

Making communities age-friendly and transportation systems supportive of walking and bicycling for older adults is incredibly important as we consider the following statistics:

  • The older adult population in the United States aged 65 and older is expected to almost double between 2012 and 2050, from 43.1 million to 83.7 million.
  • The California Department of Aging estimates that by 2050 13.9 Californians will be 60 or older, representing over 25% of the state population. Over 2.5 million of those individuals will be 85 or older.
  • Nationally, older adult pedestrian fatalities occur at 2-3 times the rate of the general population.
  • In California, pedestrian fatalities age 65 and older increased 19.8 percent from 202 in 2015 to 242 in 2016.

The Safe Routes for Older Adults Guide

Creating and/or enhancing environments to be more supportive of walking and bicycling has been a significant initiative within the transportation and health communities for over a decade, with important progress in many locations. Rates of walking and bicycling are up in California, and active transportation policies have become more institutionalized at the state and local level (e.g., Caltrans’ “Toward An Active California State Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan” and the City of Los Angeles Complete Streets Design Guide).

Seniors conducting walk audit in San Francisco

Walking audit done in San Francisco community (photo credit: Natasha Opfell, Walk San Francisco)

With the increased focus on walking and bicycling comes opportunities to improve the safety of the transportation environment for all users. In response, UC Berkeley SafeTREC has prepared a Safe Routes for Older Adults (SRFOA) guide that provides communities with background information on walking and bicycling safety for older adults and tools to make transportation in California communities age-friendly for all.

The guide provides:

  • Background information on the older adult population
  • Current transportation statistics
  • Recommendations for how to build a stakeholder network to promote SRFOA
  • An overview of the proven strategies to address pedestrian safety conditions and concerns known as the 6 E’s; and
  • Various Safe Routes for Older Adults resources, including project examples.

Download the guide!

Upcoming Event

As part of the release of the Safe Routes for Older Adults Guide, SafeTREC senior policy and project analyst Tracy McMillan will be presenting on her work developing the guide in a free webinar hosted by the Active Transportation Research Center (ATRC):

Webinar: Safe Routes for Older Adults
Date/Time: Wednesday, May 9, 2018; 11:00am-12:30pm PDT
Register online:

This webinar will provide an overview of older adult mobility patterns, pedestrian and bicycle safety considerations for active aging, resources for developing Safe Routes for Older Adults programs, and lessons learned from a local Safe Routes for Older Adults pilot program.


  • Patti Horsley, MPH; Older Adult Injury Prevention Program, California Department of Public Health

  • Tracy McMillan, PhD, MPH; Safe Transportation Research and Education Center, University of California Berkeley

  • Matthew Boga, MPH; San Joaquin County Public Health Services

The Safe Routes for Older Adults guide is a project undertaken as part of our Focus Cities program. The guide was prepared at UC Berkeley SafeTREC by:

Tracy McMillan, PhD, MPH, Senior Policy & Project Analyst
Ana Lopez, Policy & Project Analyst
Jill Cooper, MSW, Co-Director

Funding for this project was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).