Safe Routes to School E-News
Issue #62: February 2011
Safe Routes to School E-News is a monthly email newsletter published by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership (National Partnership), a growing network of more than five hundred non-profit organizations, government agencies, schools and professional groups that are working to set goals, share best practices, secure funding and provide detailed policy input to implementing agencies for advancing the Safe Routes to School national movement. 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. Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s Federal Update
Spending battle in the House; Transportation bill back at the forefront
2. Roundup of National News Items
Updates on school siting guidelines, new transportation poll and prevention funds
4. Congratulations to Let’s Move Team on One Year Anniversary!
Celebrate by signing up for the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award Challenge
5. States Continue to Award Available Safe Routes to School Funds
Fourth quarter 2010 State of the States now available
6. Safe Routes to School State Network Project Update
Welcomes a new network state and celebrates policy victories
7. Safe Routes to School Regional Network Project Update
Impacting Regional Transportation Plans, policy change and leveraging resources
8. Alaska Safe Routes to School Getting Creative with Education and Encouragement
Most recent funding cycle likely announcing awards by March 2011
9. Virginia Partners to Promote Safe Routes to School
Currently accepting school travel plans for the 2011 grant funding cycle
10. Safe Routes to School News Throughout the Country
Local and state SRTS program news links
The past few weeks have been very busy ones in Congress and for the Administration. Congress is trying to settle funding levels for the current fiscal year (through September 30, 2011) at the same time that the President released the proposed budget for the next fiscal year. Here are some highlights:
- Transportation extension: The current SAFETEA-LU transportation bill extension expires March 4, 2011. The U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering legislation that would extend all transportation programs until September 30, 2011. We will keep everyone posted on the progress.
- Appropriations: This week, the U.S. House of Representatives is considering legislation (called a continuing resolution or CR) governing federal spending for the rest of FY2011. The legislation cuts spending $60 billion below FY2010 levels. Fortunately, Safe Routes to School and bicycling/walking programs were not subject to cuts either in the CR or in any of the 500+ amendments up for consideration. After this week, the CR moves to the Senate, but it is expected to be difficult for the House and Senate to agree on spending cuts—so we may see continuing battles over spending levels.
- President’s budget: This week, the President released his proposed FY2012 budget, including the Administration’s proposal for a new surface transportation bill. The proposal calls for an investment of $556 billion in transportation—nearly double the SAFETEA-LU funding level—and a consolidation of 55 transportation programs into five programs. The Safe Routes to School program and four other programs are combined into a proposed new livability grant program totaling $4.1 billion in FY2012. We are working with the Administration on the details of their proposal to make sure SRTS is well-represented. Should this proposal become law, it makes SRTS projects eligible for a much larger pot of funding, but state and local advocates would need to work together to ensure that SRTS projects are prioritized by state DOTs in spending livability funding. This proposal will be the subject of much debate in Congress; the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are expected to release their draft transportation bills this spring.
- House Transportation hearings: Chairman Mica (R-FL) of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee will be holding a series of listening sessions around the country from February 14-25. Locations have been released, but the formats will vary. Some will be invitation-only, while some will be hearings open to the public.
February has been a busy month for other national news related to Safe Routes to School policies and programs:
- EPA school siting guidelines: The National Partnership has submitted comments on draft voluntary school siting guidelines developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), focused on further strengthening consideration of the positive benefits of siting schools close to the children served. Any groups or individuals interested in providing comments should feel free to reinforce any of the recommendations the National Partnership submitted. Comments are due to the EPA by February 18 at 4pm EST.
- New transportation poll: The Rockefeller Foundation has released the results of a bipartisan poll on transportation of American voters. Two out of three respondents said investing in infrastructure is very important. And, one of the top goal of voters—with 57% of respondents—was “safer streets for our communities and children.” This shows that the goals of the Safe Routes to School program resonate with voters.
- HHS prevention funds: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced how it will allocate the 2011 prevention dollars made available through the Affordable Care Act (health reform). Of the $750 million available for 2011, $222 million will be used to support Community Transformation Grants. These grants will be modeled after the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grants, which funded communities to make policy, systems and environmental changes around obesity prevention and tobacco cessation. Grant applications are not yet available; we’ll keep everyone posted.
3. Free Webinar: Bike Shops and Advocates Collaborating on Safe Routes to School
March 3 at 1pm EST – register today
Are you wanting to engage your local bike shop in Safe Routes to School programs? Or, as a local bike shop, have you been looking for ways to get involved in the Safe Routes to School movement but haven’t quite figured out how you fit?
This free webinar will highlight success stories in Colorado and Austin, Texas that have teamed a local program with a bike shop to enhance Safe Routes to School efforts. In addition to programmatic highlights, presenters will explain the benefits of involving bike shops, describe a strategy for approaching local bike shops and discuss concrete ideas for collaboration ranging from low hanging fruit to full-fledged sponsorship.
Involving bike shops in Safe Routes to School projects is key to creating a sustainable program that encourages more bicycling. Any parent, program staff, manager or bike shop staffer that has struggled to implement bicycling within Safe Routes to School activities should attend this webinar. Click here to register now!
Thanks to the SRAM Cycling Fund, we will be holding six webinars in 2011 on bicycling and Safe Routes to School.
4. Congratulations to Let’s Move Team on One Year Anniversary!
Celebrate by signing up for the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award Challenge
Congratulations to First Lady Michelle Obama and her team for the one-year anniversary of Let’s Move! Mrs. Obama gave a speech on February 9 to mark the occasion, sharing the progress made on childhood obesity over the past year. Let’s Move has also released new PSAs and promotional materials for stakeholders. In addition, the official press release for the one-year anniversary of Let’s Move touted support for Safe Routes to School as one of the national accomplishments related to physical activity.
One way to mark Let’s Move’s one-year anniversary is to sign up for the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award Challenge. All it takes is a nearly daily commitment to physical activity for six out of eight weeks. You can track your progress with their free personal activity log, which you can access online after you create an individual account, or on a paper log (PDF). Safe Routes to School is a fantastic means for both children and parents to participate in the challenge by logging physical activity minutes as you bicycle or walk to and from school each day.
Each quarter, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership issues a “State of the States” to track state-by-state implementation of federal Safe Routes to School funds. The newly available fourth quarter 2010 report shows that states have announced a total of $582 million in funding since the start of the program. During this quarter, states announced $30 million in new awards to local communities, double the rate in the prior quarter. While the piecemeal flow of FY2011 funding has made it difficult for many states to hold new application cycles, it is important that states use as much of available funds as possible, and continue to focus on obligating funds so that projects can be built and implemented promptly. Information for each state is included in the report, so take a look and see how your state’s Department of Transportation is doing, and continue to work with your State DOT to maximize the potential for Safe Routes to School.
Hawaii: The Hawaii network’s role on Hawaii’s Complete Streets advisory committee has proven extremely beneficial to the development of Complete Streets statewide policy recommendations following the establishment of a 2009 state Complete Streets law. With the network’s involvement, comprehensive language on bicycle and pedestrian safety has been incorporated into this statewide transportation policy.
Kentucky: The Kentucky network won an exciting policy victory in January when language was inserted into the state’s powerful Strategic Highway Safety Plan that includes specific mention of the need to consider the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians. The state’s previous plan contained no mention of bicycling or walking, so this is a great start for bicycling and walking safety funding in Kentucky. The Kentucky network has been engaged on this issue since 2007, and the network had previously prepared and submitted comments to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
Michigan: Our newest network state! We are pleased to announce that the network project has recently engaged with the Michigan Fitness Foundation (MFF) to get a Michigan network up and running. Hiring is currently underway for a new Michigan state network organizer. Our state network manager and Michigan resident, Rory Neuner, has been working closely with the Safe Routes to School team at MFF and both the Transportation Enhancements coordinator and Safe Routes to School coordinator at the Michigan Department of Transportation to help establish a solid foundation for this newest addition to the state network project.
For more information on the network project, visit www.saferoutespartnership.org/state/network.
Starting in January 2010 with funding from Kaiser Permanente, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership expanded the Safe Routes to School state network project (network project) to include three new regional networks which are educating regional policymakers in the areas of Southern California (Southern California Association of Governments--SCAG), the Greater Washington DC Area (Metropolitan Washington Council of Government--MWCOG) and in the Atlanta Region (Atlanta Regional Commission--ARC). Drawing on the state network project’s success, the regional networks have focused on:
- Working to leverage additional resources for walking and bicycling initiatives through Regional Transportation Plan development;
- Getting infrastructure built that will improve physical activity among students;
- Ensuring that federal Safe Routes to School funds are spent on quality projects;
- Advocating to remove barriers for walking and bicycling by children through various policy initiatives including Complete Streets.
Regional networks build support among many advocates and agencies to impact the federally-required long range Regional Transportation Plans (RTPs), and they are also working within the localities in these regions to facilitate policy changes and leverage resources that will result in a built environment that supports more walking and bicycling.
Greater Washington DC Area Regional Network
The Greater Washington DC Area network formed in January 2010, and has already achieved early policy successes by convincing the National Capitol Region Transportation Planning Board to recognize and support Safe Routes to School in the region and to work to add Safe Routes to School projects as separate line items in the MWCOG’s Transportation Improvement Program. In Fall 2010, the MWCOG revised the Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan for the National Capital Region to include the goals and best practices for walking and bicycling programs—including Safe Routes to School; performance indicators and relevant baseline conditions; and a list of major bicycle and pedestrian projects drawn from local, state and agency plans, which the region would like to carry out by the year 2040.
Southern California Regional Network
The Southern California network also launched in January 2010. Since then the regional project has conducted outreach to policy stakeholders through key meetings, conferences and events and has grown into a coalition of more than 250 partners. The Southern California network has developed a policy platform and an action plan to carry out its platform goals, with a specific focus on SCAG’s RTP. The regional project has worked diligently to carry the elements of the platform to SCAG decision-makers as well as leaders in various counties and cities comprising this region. The regional network has been working with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and the City of Los Angeles throughout 2010 to encourage a Safe Routes to School citywide strategic plan. As a result of these conversations, the concept is included in the City’s new bicycle plan (in the final stages of adoption) and the proposal is currently being presented to the City of Los Angeles Transportation Committee in February 2011 for funding.
Atlanta Regional Network
In January 2011, the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) became the contractor for the Atlanta network. NACDD has hired an organizer for both the state and regional networks, and efforts in Georgia are rolling forward in 2011. The Atlanta network is pulling together just as the Atlanta Regional Commission is beginning to work on revising its regional transportation plan (RTP), so the regional network is poised to promote and encourage Safe Routes to School and active transportation in the RTP.
We encourage residents and organizations in Southern California, Atlanta and the Washington DC area to get involved with the regional project. Each regional project has a regional organizer who conducts monthly meetings that enable participants to learn more about the regional project and to participate in policy development activities. For more information, visit our website.
What lives in the Juneau Department of Transportation building, is big, green, reflective and has kids all over Alaska getting excited about bicycling and pedestrian safety? The Alaska Safe Routes to Schools mascot, Reflectosaurus. Created by a former AmeriCorps member, Reflectosaurus has been piloting Safe Routes to School outreach since March 2010. Aiding the education and encouragement campaign through his captivation of young audiences in a presentation about pedestrian, bicycle, reflector and now bear safety, Alaska’s Safe Routes to School mascot has been to 18 schools across Alaska, and presented to more than 4,000 kids.
Other outreach-related projects the Alaska Safe Routes to School program is involved with include the following: a reflector fashion act in a wearable art show, the walking school bus campaign, shipping free reflectors to schools all over Alaska, (the program has provided more than 90,000 free reflectors) and a budding Teens go Green Program, where teens are getting involved to coordinate and plan events encouraging elementary-aged students to more safely bicycle and walk to their school, as well as around their neighborhoods.
Alaska recently had an application cycle close on November 30 – applications are currently being reviewed with awards likely to be announced by March 2011. They hope to have construction projects funded through this round with construction taking place in the summer of 2011. Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau are working on multi-school projects and more than 20 other communities and tribal entities are beginning or have ongoing Safe Routes to School local programs.
Richmond, Virginia-based nonprofit Prevention Connections, which works to reduce and prevent obesity and tobacco use, has served as the host of the Virginia Safe Routes to School state network since January 2010. This partnership has been key in bridging the connection between health and the built environment in Virginia, and they work with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) in a coordinated effort to increase the number of schools engaging in Safe Routes to School (SRTS) activities and encouraging students to walk and bicycle.
In 2010, Prevention Connections received a Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant to establish a Safe Routes to School mini-grant program for Virginia elementary and middle schools. Each $2,000 mini-grant award assists a school in planning and implementing walking and/or bicycling to school activities. The program specifically targets low-income areas, where studies have shown that young pedestrians are at a higher risk of being injured or killed in traffic, and is a catalyst for communities to begin to examine ways to make their environment safer and more accessible for children to walk and bicycle to school.
In support of VDOT’s existing physical activity initiatives, Prevention Connections also helps mini-grant recipients connect with larger funding opportunities. The VDOT Safe Routes to School coordinator plans to provide direct support and technical assistance to mini-grant recipients to increase the likelihood that they will partner with their local government to apply for infrastructure improvement funding. Prevention Connections and VDOT will provide a webinar this spring for schools interested in developing sustainable SRTS programs.
For more information about Prevention Connections’ grant opportunities, visit their website. For more information on Virginia’s Safe Routes to School program, visit their website, or contact Robert Williams, VDOT Safe Routes to School coordinator, at RobertJ.Williams@vdot.virginia.gov.
Safe Routes to School news around the country keeps growing! Updated regularly, see our new SRTS 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.