Safe Routes to School National Partnership Announces New State Network Project

3-27-07

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Deb Hubsmith, Coordinator, Safe Routes to School National Partnership
415/454-7430
Robert Ping, State Network Manager, Safe Routes to School National Partnership
503/289-0441

Boulder, CO - The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) National Partnership has selected nine key states and the District of Columbia to participate in a project to encourage children to walk and bicycle to and from school.

California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia and the District of Columbia will join the Safe Routes to School State Network, a project that brings together state leaders in order to remove barriers to walking and bicycling to and from school. The SRTS State Network project is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Bikes Belong Coalition.

"This program will help a generation of children become more active and involved in their neighborhoods," said Deb Hubsmith, coordinator of the SRTS National Partnership. "Safe Routes to School programs can increase physical activity, reduce automobile congestion around schools and improve traffic safety for schoolchildren."

Safe Routes to School is a national program designed to make it safe, fun and convenient to bicycle to and from school. A generation ago, approximately half of all school-age children walked or biked to school. Today, only about 15% of children walk and bike 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 will be used through 2009 to launch education campaigns and to make capital improvements such as building new sidewalks, bike lanes and pathways in communities.

A primary goal of the project is to reach children at highest risk for obesity. The nine states and D.C. were selected based on both need and their capacity to support the program. The SRTS National Partnership considered the number and percentage of overweight and obese children within the state, as well as the number and percentage of minority children in low-income families. Other criteria included the state’s ability to leverage strategic partnerships, and make a national impact.

The State Network Project will inform and educate the general public about Safe Routes to School and share information about lessons learned from the initiative. The project will create a Guide to Developing a Successful Safe Routes to School State Network so other states can initiate their own programs. At the local level, each State Network will identify and provide technical assistance to a low-income community or school. In Illinois and Louisiana, the State Networks also will collaborate with Food Trust programs funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Food Trust is a Philadelphia-based advocacy organization that has convinced local corner stores to stock healthier products and helped bring supermarkets back to underserved neighborhoods.

Safe Routes to School is a cost-effective tool with the potential to increase physical activity, reduce obesity, improve neighborhoods and inspire children and their parents to live an active lifestyle. Since 2000, the program has been successful in communities such as Marin County, Calif., Arlington, Mass., and Portland, Ore.

Safe Routes to School National Partnership
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is a fast-growing network of more than 260 organizations and professional groups working to set goals, share best practices, secure funding and inform agencies that implement SRTS. The Safe Routes to School National 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 governed by a Steering Committee comprised of organizations and agencies that have been developing SRTS programs and initiatives at local, state and national levels. Partner affiliates utilize their communication channels to spread the word about SRTS opportunities, news, challenges and collaborations. For more information, visit www.saferoutespartnership.org.

Bikes Belong Coalition
The Colorado-based Bikes Belong Coalition is the national coalition of bicycle suppliers and retailers working together to put more people on bicycles more often. Through national leadership, grassroots grants and promotion, Bikes Belong works to make bicycling safe, convenient and fun. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is hosted by the Bikes Belong Foundation, a 501c3 sister-organization to Bikes Belong Coalition. For more information, visit bikesbelong.org.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 30 years, the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.