August 2010

Safe Routes to School E-News

Issue #56: August 2010

Safe Routes to School E-News is a monthly email newsletter published by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership (National Partnership), which is leading the national movement for Safe Routes to School by coordinating and energizing more than 500 organizations, government agencies, schools and professional groups. Our mission is to advocate for safe walking and bicycling to and from schools, and in daily life, to improve the health and well-being of America’s children and to foster the creation of livable, sustainable communities.

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In this issue:

1. NPLAN Releases New Resources on Reducing Liability Concerns
Two fact sheets and recent webinar address common barriers to SRTS

2. September Is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
SRTS is a perfect way to engage in more physical activity

3. New SRTS Fact Sheet Is Great Back to School Resource
Compelling resource to garner interest and support for your program

4. Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s Federal Update
Senate makes progress on two bills

5. Check on Your State’s Progress in Implementing SRTS
States show momentum in spending SRTS funds in second quarter

6. Attend the Partnership’s Annual Meeting and ProWalk/ProBike
Click here to register for this free event

7. Safe Routes to School State Network Project Update
Progress and policy successes from 2010

8. Michigan SRTS Program Awards More Than $1,300,000 in 2010
Forging ahead with both infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects

9. Safe Routes to School Blazes Forward in New Mexico
Child pedestrian safety curriculum to be released in Fall of 2010

10. SRTS News Throughout the Country
Local and state SRTS program news links


1. NPLAN Releases New Resources on Reducing Liability Concerns
Two fact sheets and recent webinar address common barriers to SRTS

The National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity (NPLAN) recently released new resources about liability. They also presented a webinar on August 11 on Safe Routes to School (SRTS) and liability for childhood obesity prevention policymakers and advocates. An archived copy of the webinar can be accessed here.

Despite the many benefits of SRTS, some schools have been reluctant to support SRTS programs due to concerns about being sued if an injury or problem arises. But such fears are largely unwarranted. By acting responsibly and understanding liability issues, schools, nonprofits and parent groups can help students reap the health and academic benefits of SRTS programs while minimizing any risks.

The first fact sheet - Safe Routes to School: Minimizing Your Liability Risk, addresses liability fears and offers practical tips for schools and community advocates to support SRTS programs.

The second fact sheet - Volunteers and Liability: The Federal Volunteer Protection Act, provides an overview of legal protections designed to shield volunteers from liability.

The webinar provided the basics of liability in the context of SRTS and how school districts, nonprofit organizations and others can reduce their liability in SRTS programs. Presenters put liability concerns in perspective, explained how SRTS programs can leave schools with a lower risk of liability than existed prior to the program and provided practical advice on best practices for implementing SRTS programs and policies. Robert Ping, state network director at the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, was one of the presenters and he shared how liability fears can impinge on SRTS program success, and also featured best practices and case studies to show how communities from around the US have dealt with the issue successfully.


2. September Is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
SRTS is a perfect way to engage in more physical activity

Congress has officially proclaimed September 2010 as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Other national, state and city leaders are called on to support and observe the month.

As we all know, over the past four decades obesity rates in the United States have soared among all age groups. This rise in obesity rates has affected our youth in a particularly alarming fashion. Childhood obesity has increased more than fourfold among those ages 6 to 11. Over 23 million children and teenagers in the United States ages 2 to 19 are obese or overweight, a statistic that health and medical experts consider an epidemic. And this epidemic puts nearly one third of America’s children at early risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even stroke - conditions usually associated with adulthood. Even greater disparities exist among young Hispanics and children of color.

But there are opportunities every day to change these trends. And this September, there is an extraordinary opportunity to build awareness and take action - nationally, as well as in your state, city, workplace and home.

This is a chance for both organizations and individuals to take steps within your family and in your community to help reverse the rise of childhood obesity. Safe Routes to School is a great way to engage in physical activity more regularly, one of the goals of this month. We’d love to hear from you - share what you will be doing on our facebook page!


3. New SRTS Fact Sheet Is Great Back to School Resource
Compelling resource to garner interest and support for your program

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership recently created a two-page fact sheet, Safe Routes to School: Taking Steps to Increase Physical Activity Levels and Create Healthy, Livable Communities, that is a perfect back-to-school resource for advocates working at the state, district and local levels to help make the case for Safe Routes to School.

Full of statistics and numbers, the fact sheet is balanced by compelling photos and quotes from parents, principals and more, to help tell the story of how walking and bicycling to school is no longer the norm and how Safe Routes to School aims to change this.

Feel free to use the fact sheet in your work in the upcoming school year, and to share it with others who would find it helpful.


4. Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s Federal Update
Senate makes progress on two bills

Congress will be spending the next month back in their home districts, which means there will be no hearings and votes in Washington, DC until after Labor Day. If you happen to be planning to meet with your Member of Congress over the next month, we encourage you to talk about Safe Routes to School and ask for the Member’s support. We have available online a toolkit for planning Member events or meeting with your Member of Congress to discuss Safe Routes to School.

In legislative news, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) has become a cosponsor of S. 1156, the Senate Safe Routes to School Program Reauthorization bill. That brings us to 25 total Senators - one-fourth of the entire Senate, which clearly shows the strong and broad support Safe Routes to School has. Our lead sponsors [Senators Harkin (D-IA), Burr (R-NC), Sanders (I-VT), Merkley (D-OR) and Collins (R-ME)] have all had recent conversations with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) which is writing the transportation bill to reinforce their support for Safe Routes to School. We have also spoken several times with EPW staff about the specifics of our legislative proposal, indicating that the Committee is in the midst of drafting a transportation bill. Committee staff has indicated that a draft will likely be available during September.

In addition, the Senate Banking Committee recently approved S. 1619, The Livable Communities Act. The legislation creates a $2.5 billion grant program to support planning and implementation of projects that integrate transportation, housing, land use and economic development concerns. We are grateful to Sen. Merkley (D-OR) for offering an amendment to add school siting as an eligible use of funds in the planning grants. Recipients of planning groups would be able to use federal funds to assess their school siting policies and school locations for opportunities to locate schools closer to students and increase the rates of walking and bicycling to school. The amendment was accepted by the Banking Committee, along with another amendment to add more references and opportunities for bicycling and walking throughout the bill. The legislation must still be passed by the full Senate, and considered by the House before it can become law.


5. Check on Your State’s Progress in Implementing SRTS
States show momentum in spending SRTS funds in second quarter

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership just issued our quarter "state of the states" report. In the second quarter of 2010, states announced another $48 million in Safe Routes to School funds-bringing this to a total of $544 million. That is nearly all of the funds originally authorized for Safe Routes to School for FY2005-2009 ($597 million). Since states now have available all of the FY2010 funds, many states have already announced grant cycles for later this year.

On the obligation front, states obligated $31 million in funds in the second quarter of 2010. Obligation is when a state spends or contracts to spend the funds they have already announced-it is a good measure of when a project is close to being built or implemented. This $31 million is 50% greater than last quarter, showing that states are building momentum around obligation. All but 11 states obligated funds during this quarter. States have obligated $293 million, about half of the FY2005-2009 funds and 38% of all currently available funds (through FY2010). Take a look and see how your state is doing-if your state is below average, please talk with your state about how to get more funds announced and obligated.


6. Attend the Partnership’s Annual Meeting and ProWalk/ProBike
Click here to register for this free event

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is holding its Annual Meeting at the Pro Walk/Pro Bike® Conference on Monday, September 13, 2010 from 1-5pm in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This is a great opportunity to meet and network with Safe Routes to School advocates from around the country plus Partnership staff and Steering Committee members. In addition, we will be presenting our draft 2011-2015 Strategic Plan. Come learn about our efforts to adopt a Plan that will coincide with new federal transportation legislation and how we intend to strengthen and expand the federal Safe Routes to School program and movement over the next five years. There will be plenty of time for you to share your thoughts about what’s needed for the future of Safe Routes to School! This event is free, but advance registration is required as seating is limited. Click here to register.

The Annual Meeting is a good way to start out the Pro Walk / Pro Bike® conference. This year’s theme, "Bringing Livable Communities and Regions to Scale," is aimed at highlighting many examples of what can be done in small and mid-size cities and rural regions to develop and sustain livable communities. The conference, hosted by the National Center for Bicycling and Walking, will also showcase bike/ped projects that were built with stimulus money and projects that make it possible for people of all ages and abilities to walk and bicycle everywhere all the time. The closing plenary will be on Thursday, September 16, from 12-2pm with special interest meetings later in the day and on Friday, September 17. Register now for the conference!


7. Safe Routes to School State Network Project Update
Progress and policy successes from 2010

Since the State Network Project includes twenty states, each of which is tackling numerous policy issues, it is hard to report all of it in the Partnership’s monthly e-newsletters. However, the Partnership produces reports on the State Network Project annually, and progress and policy successes in the ten states that participated in 2007-2009 State Network Project can be found here.

Here are a few highlights of progress and policy successes that have taken place so far in 2010 in two of the twenty network states:

Kentucky: Governor’s Strategic Highway Safety Taskforce
In mid-July several members of the Kentucky network met with the Secretary of Transportation of the State of Kentucky. The Secretary mentioned the possibility for the network to serve on the Governor’s Strategic Highway Safety Taskforce. Since the meeting, the Secretary’s Chief of Staff contacted the network about serving on the taskforce, which will allow the network to give input on safety issues, including complete streets. To cap off a month of activity on complete streets, the network is hosting an in-state webinar in August 2010 and is distributing the Partnership’s complete streets fact sheet.

Louisiana: School Siting Summit
The Louisiana School Siting Summit took place on July 22nd and was a collaboration between the Louisiana state network organizer, the College of Urban and Public Affairs at the University of New Orleans and Tulane University’s Cowen Institute. The Summit brought together professionals and individuals from planning, public health, historic preservation, education and more. Speakers discussed the preservation of historic buildings, infrastructure improvements and programs and joint-use of facilities. The attendees discussed their views on what makes a successfully sited school, that resulted in recommendations on steps school officials should take to promote community based schools and good school siting decisions.

Mississippi: MDOT Bike/Ped Policy Adopted
In late June, the Mississippi Department of Transportation approved a policy for pedestrians and bicycles on highway and street projects. The policy states that pedestrians and bicyclists in the State of Mississippi shall be considered during the planning, design, construction and maintenance of highway and street facilities. This complete streets policy is an incredible step towards increasing pedestrian and bicycle friendliness and safety in Mississippi. Key network partners were involved in this victory, and the state network salutes MDOT and the State’s Transportation Commissioners for taking this step forward for Mississippi’s pedestrians and bicyclists.


8. Michigan SRTS Program Awards More Than $1,300,000 in 2010
Michigan SRTS Program Awards More Than $1,300,000 in 2010 State program provides several resources to promote the movement and the planning process

In March of 2010, the state program awarded more than $1,300,000 to six schools throughout Michigan. Examples of funded projects included sidewalk and non-motorized path installation, walk and bike to school clubs and installation of pedestrian safety enhancements, including bulbouts and driver feedback signage. Funding applications are accepted on a rolling basis with quarterly funding announcements. The next announcement is scheduled for September of 2010.

Michigan’s Safe Routes to School program provides several state specific resources that promote Safe Routes to School as both a movement and a planning process.

One of those resources is Make Trax, an eight lesson youth-focused curriculum and research project that helps youth assume the role of tomorrow’s Safe Routes to School policy and decision-makers. Other important resources include Michigan’s Safe Routes to School e-newsletter and website. Click on each newsletter for a closer look:

Michigan Safe Routes to School E-Newsletter Issue 28 (Current Issue)
Michigan Safe Routes to School E-Newsletter Issue 27
Michigan Safe Routes to School E-Newsletter Issue 26

The Safe Routes to School state network consists of a core team of 10 state agencies, organizations and universities who lead development of the state program, provide sub-contractual technical assistance, outreach and local person-power through their existing agency and university networks. The following activities demonstrate how the network helps deliver the Safe Routes to School message statewide:

  • Wayne State University’s Center for Urban Studies (WSU-CUS) developed a website documenting lessons and key themes learned while assisting several Detroit schools with Safe Routes to School planning activities. One of the schools developed a video about walking school buses, pedestrian safety and the benefits of Safe Routes to School.
  • The League of Michigan Bicyclists (LMB) developed a Safe Routes to School Bikeability Assessment Guide to help schools improve their bikeability landscape.
  • The Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance mapped the state’s trails in relation to elementary and middle schools. Trails serve as an important artery for children walking and biking to school if they are aligned to connect the school and neighborhood where students live.
  • This year, educators from Michigan State University Extension’s new Greening Michigan Institute and Institute for Preparing Michigan’s Children and Youth for the Future will convene multidisciplinary school and community groups to foster sustainable Safe Routes to School action plans. Also, the Safe Routes to School Design Initiative, a program of the Department of Landscape Architecture Small Town Design Initiative, will provide assistance to schools and community groups in the design of innovative solutions to calm traffic and improve pedestrian safety around schools and along the routes students travel to and from school.

For information about Michigan Safe Routes to School resources, please contact Lee Kokinakis, Michigan Fitness Foundation SR2S Director at (517) 908-3824. For information about the Michigan Safe Routes to School Federal Program, please contact Michigan SRTS Coordinator, Bryan Armstrong, AICP at (517) 335-2636. Or visit the Michigan Safe Routes to School program website.


9. Safe Routes to School Blazes Forward in New Mexico
Child pedestrian safety curriculum to be released in Fall of 2010

Despite the summer heat, the New Mexico Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program continues to blaze ahead. In Santa Fe, the NMDOT is working with 10 communities, moving them from the planning phase into implementation with project selection anticipated in fall 2010. Planned projects include sidewalks, a pedestrian bridge and traffic calming, as well as educational and encouragement programs. These communities have worked for the past two to three years to establish local SRTS programs and develop action plans that identify barriers to walking and bicycling, as well as prioritized solutions. Several of these communities also received engineering assistance through the New Mexico SRTS program. Approximately 25 other communities are actively working on action plans in hopes of a shot at future funding in spring 2011.

The University of New Mexico Prevention Research Center (UNM PRC), recently completed an extensive evaluation of the New Mexico SRTS program that will be used to revise the program. The UNM PRC is also working on a child pedestrian safety curriculum, to be released in fall of 2010, along with teacher training and information about setting up walking school bus programs.

In the southern part of the state, the Regional SRTS Coordinator at the Las Cruces Metropolitan Planning Organization continues to develop a school district-wide action plan identifying and prioritizing SRTS projects and programs needed at area schools. The City has supported these efforts by addressing some of the identified issues, such as repainting crosswalks and installing traffic calming infrastructure. The school district is also on board with SRTS, and it has conducted parent surveys and student travel tallies at all K-8 schools.

Many local communities are keeping SRTS on the front burner by holding bike rodeos and repair classes. Several schools are already working on Walk to School Day events and others are gearing up to conduct Parent Surveys as part of back to school events. When it comes to SRTS, there are no cold feet in New Mexico.

For more information on New Mexico’s SRTS program, visit their website or contact Jessica Frost at Jessica.Frost@state.nm.us or (505) 476-2155.


10. Safe Routes to School News throughout the Country
Local and state SRTS program news links

Safe Routes to School news around the country keeps growing! Updated regularly, see our new Safe Routes to School in the News media center for the latest in local, state, and national SRTS news.


Help Grow the National Partnership!

Joining the National Partnership is free. Please encourage other organizations, schools, businesses, and government agencies to join the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, a network of more than 500 organizations and agencies.

Funding for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership has been generously provided by the Bikes Belong Coalition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kaiser Permanente, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, SRAM Cycling Fund, individuals and partner affiliates.

For more information, contact:

Brooke Driesse, Communications Manager
Safe Routes to School National Partnership
brooke@saferoutespartnership.org
www.saferoutespartnership.org