Legislative Priorities

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership advocates for public policy and funding that will strengthen the federal Safe Routes to School program, which has been folded into the Transportation Alternatives program, and build a more supportive environment for Safe Routes to School initiatives. We regularly visit Capitol Hill to help members of Congress understand the safety, health, and environmental benefits of Safe Routes to School. We also work closely with a number of national coalitions on a range of other issues.

However, the most effective advocate on any of these issues is you—please review our Toolkit for Building Congressional Champions for step-by-step instructions, templates, tools, and resources to help you plan an event or meeting with your Member of Congress.

More information on our key policy priorities is included below.  Please also visit our main National Policy page for up-to-date information about our actions on these issues, or our legislative archives for past information.

Safe Routes to School

Our top priority is to strengthen funding and policy for the federal Safe Routes to School program during consideration of the next surface transportation bill.  The federal Safe Routes to School program was first created in August 2005 through Section 1404 of SAFETEA-LU, and funded at approximately $1.1 billion from FY2005-FY2012. 

In July 2012, Congress passed a new transportation bill, MAP-21, which consolidated several bicycling and walking programs, including Safe Routes to School, into a new program called Transportation Alternatives. States have the option to continue running standalone Safe Routes to School programs or simply to request Safe Routes to School projects along with other bicycling and walking projects. These Safe Routes to School funds are critical to allow communities to increase the safety and frequency of children walking and bicycling to and from school, and to help address traffic congestion, air quality issues, and childhood physical inactivity and obesity. MAP-21 expires in September 2014, providing an opportunity to argue for increased funding and stronger policy.

Transportation

In addition to advocating for the federal Safe Routes to School program, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership also works with coalitions and partner organizations (including America Bikes, National Complete Streets Coalition, and Transportation for America)  to support other transportation policies and programs that can help create a supportive environment for Safe Routes to School and help build a sustainable transportation system.  Priorities include increased funding for bicycling and walking, Complete Streets policies and performance measures that are multi-modal.

Climate

The transportation sector currently produces 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions. One way to reduce greenhouse gases is to cut back on the number of miles people drive—which is one outcome of the cumulative efforts of Safe Routes to School programs.

During the 2009-2010 Congressional session, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership works with a coalition of environmental and smart growth groups to advance a climate bill with funding for multi-modal transportation choices so that more families can safely and easily walk, bicycle, and take public transit. While the climate bill ultimately did not pass, we continue to monitor this issue and will participate in any future legislative efforts around climate change or energy policy.

Education

While the federal Safe Routes to School program is funded through the Federal Highway Administration, schools and schools districts are critical partners in the success of Safe Routes to School programs. Federal and state education laws often affect interest in and institutional support for Safe Routes to School initiatives. Things like school wellness policies (which are required by the federal Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004), physical activity guidelines, and siting schools within neighborhoods can help build a supportive environment for Safe Routes to School.

The primary federal legislation governing education is the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (or the No Child Left Behind Act). This legislation was due for reconsideration in 2008, but Congress was not able to come to agreement. It is unclear when Congress will take up the bill at this point. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership works in partnership with the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity to monitor progress on the reauthorization and to identify opportunities to strengthen physical activity in schools, including through Safe Routes to School.

Economic Stimulus

During the 2009-2010 Congressional session, we worked with coalitions to ensure that a portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) economic stimulus could be used for Safe Routes to School and bicycle/pedestrian projects. Along with coalition partners, we demonstrated the need for including funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects—including Safe Routes to School—in ARRA. We continue to monitor states’ usage of these funds, and should another economic stimulus opportunity arise, will advocate that a portion of transportation stimulus funds be dedicated to bicycling and walking projects.