San Bernardino County Regional and Local Policies Promote Active Transportation
Regional agencies are seeing openings for public and private grants and increasing their role as a technical assistance providers. These agencies have the unique opportunity to position cities for funding, direct the framework of policies and implement crucial local programs, especially Safe Route to School infrastructure improvements. There is increased demand for walking and bicycling transportation projects that impact regions and traverse across more than one city. Thanks to stakeholders' actions, regional agencies and local jurisdictions are coming together to troubleshoot issues and coordinate efforts to address the childhood obesity epidemic, air quality, nutrition and mental and physical health.
In San Bernardino County (“County”), cities, agency staff and stakeholders see the need for collective regional efforts to leverage a multitude of funding opportunities and messaging to improve health and the quality of life in the region. Staff in transportation agencies are connecting with public health, public works, recreation and schools. As a County, leaders across all sectors created a Countywide Vision and the County is collecting data to track indicators in the Community Vital Signs Initiative, spearheaded by the County of San Bernardino Department of Public Health. These are both policy platforms for stakeholders and leaders to demonstrate the interconnectivity of important indicators. For instance, teenagers’ mental health may relate to their levels of physical activity. Obstacles in accessing health care, preventative and ambulatory, may be impacted by public transit routes and schedules and connectivity of bicycle and pedestrian networks.
Also, the County’s regional policy efforts showcase a way to address health outcomes and infrastructure needs in a resource limited environment through political encouragement and public awareness. Policy efforts have encouraged agencies and stakeholders to work together. As leaders came together at the County-level, so did public stakeholders. The San Bernardino County Active Transportation Network (SBCATN), a group of community based organizers, funders, public agencies and residents, formed to participate in the regional visioning process and connect the benefits of walking and bicycling to improve the health, environment and economics in the region. SBCATN also focuses on strengthening bicycle and pedestrian access to public transportation - Metrolink and Omnitrans stations. Additionally, to voice the importance of Safe Routes to School and active transportation in the region, the SBCATN created an Active Transportation Vision. The Vision is based upon the Countywide Vision Statement and will be used to provide feedback to the Community Vital Signs Initiative. This document provides an easily digestible summary of relevant statistics and policy opportunities for the county.
In the County, Safe Routes to School programs and funding go a long way for local communities, as shown in a list of some new programs and funded grants. San Bernardino County is ranked amongst the lowest in air quality and highest rates of adult and childhood obesity in the nation. Arguably, the County has one of the highest needs for alternative transportation network development and funding for traveling to school, work and recreation. The County is burdened by a severe air pollution problem, which threatens the lives and health of all county residents, and the county is ranked the smoggiest in the nation (American Lung Association, State of Air, 2012). Within the County, 15 percent of trips are already completed by walking and bicycling (CA Household Travel Survey, 2009). However, only 8 percent of all jobs in the San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan area are reachable via transit within 90 minutes, ranking 5th worst among the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. (Brookings Institute, Missed Opportunities: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America). More statistics about the County can be viewed on our partner sites: American Lung Association, San Bernardino County Public Health Department, San Bernardino County Associated Governments, Omnitrans (county bus operator), Inland Empire Bicycle Alliance, MoveIE.
San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG), the county’s transportation commission, ramped up its active transportation and sustainability planning programs in response to the growing demand for safe, accessible and quality active and public transportation. Some examples of the growing demand in the region are the City of Rancho Cucamonga, amongst other accomplishments, being named in the top 10 cities for its Complete Streets policy by Smart Growth America, SANBAG TDA Article 3 fund awards to bicycle, pedestrian and transit access stop improvement projects and SANBAG proposals to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Sustainability Call for Projects. SANBAG’s proposals included a Complete Streets Strategy for the region and a Safe Routes to School Inventory project, which will conduct a basic inventory of sidewalk and cycling facilities in the vicinity of schools, to make it easier for jurisdictions to identify and prioritize Safe Routes to School opportunities. These grants demonstrate innovative ways counties are leveraging active transportation in reducing greenhouse gases, improving public health, increasing physical activity and improving safety.