Safe Routes To School Low-Income Program Evaluation Report Released

2-11-10

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 11, 2010

Contact:
Jill Cooper, MSW, Asst. Director, UC Berkeley Safe Transportation Research and Education Center
Tracy McMillan, Ph.D., MPH, President, PPH Partners
Robert Ping, State Network Director, Safe Routes to School National Partnership

Comprehensive Report Analyzes Ten Schools

San Diego, CA – Today, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership (Partnership), in collaboration with UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center and PPH Partners, released the report, Safe Routes to School - Local School Project: A health evaluation at 10 low-income schools. The report was released at the Active Living Research Conference in San Diego, California.

The Local School Project (Project) began in April 2008 to provide technical assistance to Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs at ten schools around the United States to help make it safer and easier for children to walk and bicycle to school. Projects schools were located in Santa Rosa, California; Belvedere County, Georgia; Urbana, Illinois; Lebanon, Kentucky; New Orleans, Louisiana; Buffalo, New York; Stillwater, Oklahoma; Bryan, Texas; Alexandria, Virginia; and the District of Columbia) and concluded in December 2009, after one full academic year of program activities.

Overall, the results indicated that there was good progress toward achieving many of the desired outcomes for the Project as a whole. While the results also revealed challenges in promoting SRTS in communities and schools with economic and social challenges, almost all of the school sites reported some amount of policy and environmental change occurring during the academic year in support of walking and bicycling. Additionally, nine out of ten schools had successful walk/bicycle educational and encouragement activities that will continue into future years.

The Project was also successful in increasing the positive perception and awareness of walking and bicycling among the parent population at many of the sites. All of the sites, regardless of local challenges, were able to initiate SRTS program activities and/or environmental/policy changes, and most received additional funds for SRTS efforts in the future.

The Project and the resulting evaluation is one of the first multi-school SRTS programs and evaluations conducted specifically in low-income communities in the United States. The goals of the project were to: 1) create and evaluate a school-based SRTS program, 2) build local capacity to apply for state or federal SRTS funding, 3) increase safe walking and bicycling to and from the school and in the community, and 4) develop lessons learned to help other practitioners and evaluators with Safe Routes to School, particularly those working in low-income settings. Funding for the evaluation and the Project itself was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, with Project support also coming from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The report presents the formal evaluation of the Project and includes the results, lessons learned and recommendations identified during the 20-month period. The report provides insights as to what is needed to launch a successful SRTS program in communities where resources are limited, to evaluate program effectiveness, and to identify complex barriers that can be difficult to address. The report also includes a link to a SRTS Evaluation Handbook that will help local SRTS programs effectively evaluate their programs.

About Safe Routes to School
Safe Routes to School is a national program designed to make it safe, fun and convenient to walk and bicycle to and from school. A generation ago, approximately half of all school-age children walked or bicycled to school. Today, less than 15% of children walk or bicycle to schools. Concerned by the health and traffic implications of this decline, Congress provided a total of $612 million in federal funding in 2005 for all State Departments of Transportation to develop Safe Routes to School programs. The funding is being used to launch education campaigns and to make capital improvements such as building new sidewalks, bike lanes and pathways in communities.

About the Safe Routes to School National Partnership
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is a network of more than 400 organizations and professional groups working to set goals, share best practices, secure funding and inform agencies that implement SRTS. The Partnership’s mission is to serve a diverse national community of organizations that advocates for and promotes the practice of safe bicycling and walking to and from schools throughout the United States. The Partnership is hosted by the non-profit 501(c)3 Bikes Belong Foundation. For more information, visit www.saferoutespartnership.org.

About the UC Berkeley Safe Transportation Research Education Center (SafeTREC)
SafeTREC is a University of California, Berkeley research center affiliated with the Institute of Transportation Studies and the School of Public Health. SafeTREC seeks and conducts externally supported research, provides educational courses through the Department of Civil Engineering and the School of Public Health, coordinates major transportation safety programs for the State of California through the Office of Traffic Safety, the California Highway Patrol, and Caltrans, and hosts community-based training programs. Its research and education focuses on a range of approaches to increase safety on our streets and highways.

About PPH Partners
PPH Partners is a consulting firm founded by Dr. Tracy McMillan that focuses on bridging the gap between community planning and public health. The firm specializes in community assessment, measurement and evaluation, with particular emphasis in the following areas: Safe Routes to School; physical activity and traffic safety; and healthy neighborhood environments.