June 2010

Safe Routes to School E-News

Issue #54: June 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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To receive future issues of E-News, email info@saferoutespartnership.org.

In this issue:

1. Partnership Unveils TWO New Resource Guides
Full of local stories and info for low-income communities and education policymakers

2. SRTSNP Welcomes New Steering Committee Members
Fresh experience and geographic perspective will bring value to the Partnership

3. Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s Federal Update
Senate Committee drafting a transportation bill; federal agencies showing leadership

4. Check on Your State’s Progress in Implementing SRTS
States awarded nearly $50 million in new SRTS projects in first quarter 2010

5. Safe Routes to School State Network Update
Networks work to get 2010 funds spent

6. Sign up for America Walks – Equal Footing Summit
September 16, 2010, 3-7pm, Chattanooga, Tennessee

7. The National Center Announces Mini-Grant Recipients
Recipients use creative approaches to encourage safe walking and bicycling to school

8. Mississippi SRTS Is Taking It to the Streets
Complete streets policies pass in three communities; SRTS is flourishing statewide

9. ODOT Targets Record $11 million to SRTS Projects
41 Ohio communities receive funding

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


1. Partnership Unveils TWO New Resource Guides
Full of local stories and info for low-income communities and education policymakers

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is always looking to fill gaps in Safe Routes to School practice and policy. We believe our two new resource guides do just that. We are grateful to our funders the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Public Health Association for their support of these publications.

Implementing Safe Routes to School in Low-Income Schools and Communities: A Resource Guide for Volunteers and Professionals

Children from low-income families are twice as likely to walk to school as children from higher-income families, and they face a higher risk of being injured or killed as pedestrians. That is why it is critical that low-income communities are able to access Safe Routes to School funds and implement successful programs.

While there are many resources that document how to implement a Safe Routes to School program, few of them address the challenges and circumstances unique to low-income communities. This resource guide, which focuses on schools and communities where at least half of students or community residents are low-income, is intended to fill that gap.

The resource guide includes specific tips for getting started with SRTS in low-income communities. It also includes an overview and explanation of six key challenges often identified in implementing SRTS in low-income schools and communities. More than 20 community profiles are included to show how SRTS is having success in addressing issues like crime and violence, a shortage of professional expertise and limited parental involvement.

We hope this resource guide inspires nonprofit organizations, schools and community residents to come together to implement and sustain successful, culturally sensitive and inclusive Safe Routes to School initiatives.

The guide can be downloaded at http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/media/file/LowIncomeGuide.pdf. In addition, the Partnership is hosting two webinars on June 8 from 1-2pm eastern and June 17 from 1-2pm eastern with four communities featured in the guide—register today!

Getting Students Active through Safe Routes to School: Policies and Action Steps for Education Policymakers and Professionals

Education policymakers and professionals are critical partners for Safe Routes to School. But, they can sometimes be reluctant to get involved in Safe Routes to School due to pressures on budgets and staff, plus a desire to remain focused on student academic achievement.

The guide provides a detailed examination of the most up-to-date and relevant research linking physical activity and academic achievement, and presents Safe Routes to School as a means of increasing students’ physical activity levels.

It also includes policies and action steps that can be implemented at the state, school district and individual school level in several key areas specific to the education sector. Stories from states and communities across the nation provide real-life examples of how Safe Routes to School programs and policies can be adopted and implemented. Key topic areas include:

  • Building effective partnerships
  • Addressing traffic safety through infrastructure and enforcement
  • Incorporating Safe Routes to School into school wellness policies
  • Ensuring school transportation policies are inclusive of walking and bicycling
  • Creating neighborhood schools and joint use policies

Given the guide’s specific focus on issues of concern and relevance to the education sector, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership hopes that it helps equip more education policymakers and professionals—at state, school district and individual school levels—with the knowledge and tools necessary to implement and sustain successful Safe Routes to School programs and supportive policies. The guide can also be a good tool for SRTS volunteers and professionals looking for ways to engage their local school leaders. It can be downloaded at http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/media/file/EducatorsGuide.pdf.


2. SRTSNP Welcomes New Steering Committee Members
Fresh experience and geographic perspective will bring value to the Partnership

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is governed by a Steering Committee of 21 members with national, state and local perspectives on Safe Routes to School. The Partnership is pleased to announce and welcome the following new Steering Committee organizations: East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (Melissa Kraemer Badtke), Portland Safe Routes to School (Gabriel Graff) and Tennessee Obesity Task Force (Leslie Meehan). In addition, the following Steering Committee organizations were nominated and selected to serve for another three-year term on the Steering Committee: American Heart Association (Carter Headrick), Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (Kit Keller), Institute of Transportation Engineers (Phil Caruso), League of American Bicyclists (Andy Clarke) and Marin County Bicycle Coalition (Wendi Kallins). The Steering Committee, a diverse group of up to 21 members, functions as the Partnership’s Board of Directors and holds decision-making responsibility for the Partnership.

To view a complete list of current Steering Committee organizations and their member representatives, click here.


3. Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s Federal Update
Senate Committee drafting a transportation bill; federal agencies showing leadership

There is movement again on the next transportation bill. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has started working behind the scenes on drafting a new surface transportation bill. While the bill will likely not be written and released for review until later this summer, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership is continuing to talk with the committee staff about our requests to strengthen and expand the Safe Routes to School program. Over the next month, we will be working with our Senate champions to continue to express their support for Safe Routes to School. We will continue to provide updates to the Partnership’s email list as more information is released.

In the meantime, we applaud the leadership in key federal agencies on livability, safety and the built environment:

  • More than 160 groups joined the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, America Bikes, America Walks and the National Complete Streets Coalition in thanking the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for their new recommendations on improving health through transportation. Safe Routes to School, Complete Streets and healthy community design are all part of their recommendations.
  • More than 250 groups signed on to a letter from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, America Bikes and Transportation for America in support of the US Department of Transportation’s Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation. Secretary LaHood accepted the letter at a press conference in Washington, DC. Margo Pedroso, Deputy Director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, was one of the speakers at the press conference.

Thanks to all the national, state and local partners that joined us on these letters thanking our federal agency champions!

Senators Kerry and Lieberman continue to work with Senate leadership to determine a way forward for their climate bill, the American Power Act. Released in late April, the bill includes strong transportation planning provisions that would require states and large MPOs to write plans for reducing greenhouse gases from the transportation sector. It would also dedicate a maximum of $6.25 billion per year to transportation, divided roughly equally between three categories:

  • Future rounds of the DOT TIGER multi-modal competitive grants;
  • Funds to support the transportation emissions planning and resulting “green transportation” projects; and
  • The highway trust fund—with a requirement that any funded projects reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership joined with America Bikes in a letter to Senators Kerry and Lieberman to praise the policy language on transportation, and the significant increase in funding dedicated to clean, green transportation. However, our coalition made the case that additional transportation funding is needed for investments in sustainable transportation options for Americans. We should know more in June or July about next steps for the American Power Act.

Finally, the US Department of Transportation is circulating a draft strategic plan for comment. The draft plan includes a number of provisions that would help improve bicycle and pedestrian safety and create more livable communities. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has posted comments on the plan commending USDOT for their focus, while also making a number of recommendations for how the plan could be strengthened. Please take a few minutes to visit the website and show your support for Safe Routes to School by hitting the “thumbs up” next to our comments. You do have to create an account in order to register your support, which should only take a minute.


4. Check on Your State’s Progress in Implementing SRTS
States awarded nearly $50 million in new SRTS projects in first quarter 2010

Each quarter, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership issues a “state of the states” report to show how much progress states are making in using their Safe Routes to School funds. Our most recent report covers the first quarter of 2010. The report shows that states have awarded 74% of their available Safe Routes to School funds, meaning that the states have announced more than $466 million in projects for local communities. However, the average obligation rate is just 42%. Obligation means that the state has either spent Safe Routes to School funds or contracted to spend them – it’s a good measure of when the projects are close to being built or implemented. We encourage you to take a look and see how your state is doing compared with the national average.


5. Safe Routes to School State Network Update
Networks work to get 2010 funds spent

In March, the federal transportation bill, known as SAFETEA-LU, was extended to December 31, 2010. This means that program funding equal to the fiscal year 2009 funds is available through state departments of transportation, including Safe Routes to School funds. Some states want to hold on to the money until after a new transportation bill is passed, which could be 2011. State networks are working to encourage states to award the funds without delay so that they can be used for projects that improve safety and enhance access to local schools.

Awarding grants to local schools and communities is just the first step, however. Once funds are awarded, they must go through a rigorous federal and state approval process before contracts are awarded. Once this process is completed, the funds are considered ‘obligated’. If money is not obligated, it runs the risk of eventually being given back to the federal government, or it just doesn’t get to the schools and communities that need it. The timeline for obligation can be lengthy, so local communities can become frustrated and Safe Routes to School programs can lose momentum. State networks are also working with state DOTs to get Safe Routes to School funds obligated without delay.

Each quarter, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership issues a “state of the states” report to show how much progress states are making in using their Safe Routes to School funds. Our most recent report was referenced in a previous article. To see how your state did in the first quarter of 2010, click here.

For more information on the Safe Routes to School State Network Project, please visit http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/state/network.


6. Sign up for America Walks – Equal Footing Summit
September 16, 2010, 3-7pm, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Every person walks. It is the most fundamental form of physical activity and a popular type of outdoor recreation. A key mobility choice, walking comprises 11% of all transportation trips, leading to healthier people, vibrant economies and environmental sustainability.

However, pedestrian dangers and poor walking access characterize many American cities and towns. Less than 1% of federal transportation funds are spent on walking projects. Street design that discourages walking at the state and local levels exacerbates the problem. These inequities persist because there is no coherent national walking campaign to reverse these trends.

America Walks, a national non-profit organization, is addressing this void with Equal Footing: Launching the National Walking Strategy®, a summit to rally and coordinate diverse organizations, businesses and individuals to speak with one voice to improve walkability in America. In 2010, the campaign’s steering committee will develop a National Walking Strategy and action plan that will provide the foundation to put walking on truly equal footing.

The Equal Footing Summit will be held on September 16, 2010 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, directly after the conclusion of the Pro Walk / Pro Bike® conference.

Be part of this movement. Sign up to attend the Equal Footing Summit either when registering for Pro Walk / Pro Bike® conference or at the America Walks website. You can also support the campaign by signing on as a partner organization or event sponsor. Email Scott Bricker to get involved.


7. The National Center Announces Mini-Grant Recipients
Recipients use creative approaches to encourage safe walking and bicycling to school

On June 1, the National Center for Safe Routes to School announced the selection of 34 recipients to receive $1,000 mini-grants for projects designed to encourage safe walking and bicycling to school. The mini-grant activities, many of which are driven by student leadership, will occur during the fall semester of the 2010-2011 school year.

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs are sustained efforts by parents, schools, community leaders and local, state, and federal governments to improve the health and well-being of children by enabling and encouraging them to walk and bicycle to school. The National Center, which serves as the clearinghouse for the federal SRTS program, received 375 SRTS mini-grant applications from schools and community organizations in 44 states. Selected proposals distinguished themselves through their commitment and creative approaches to increase safe walking and bicycling to school.

Proposed mini-grant activities identified ways SRTS programs can positively target physical activity, environmental benefits, personal safety and community building efforts. Reducing the practice of distracted driving was another focus of several recipients. Many of the projects were designed to ensure that students are involved in every step of the SRTS programs, from planning to implementation. For example, some students will be writing letters to city council members to request sidewalks, and others will be designing and promoting “no phone zone” campaigns to their peers and parents.

To view a complete list of the 34 mini-grant recipients, click here.


8. Mississippi SRTS Is Taking It to the Streets
Complete streets policies pass in three communities; SRTS is flourishing statewide

Complete Streets has taken off in Mississippi, and is a priority for the Mississippi SRTS State Network. The City of Pascagoula recently passed a complete streets policy, which makes the city the third community to pass such a policy in Mississippi. “This program reinforces the City’s commitment to creating a more pedestrian and bike friendly community,” said Harry Schmidt, Director of Community Development. “Residents of Pascagoula are asking for more outdoor opportunities, and the ‘Complete Streets’ program ensures that the City will meet this need by providing a well designed and safe environment for both transportation and exercise.” Tupelo and Hernando were the first communities, passing their policies earlier this year.

By ensuring roadways are built for all users, communities have the ability to provide safer routes for children as they walk to school, home and other areas of town. The Mississippi SRTS State Network has established a complete streets action team to focus on educating and providing resources on the benefits of a community building complete streets and how this movement supports the implementation of SRTS projects across Mississippi.

Mississippi has seen a significant increase in the number of communities interested in the Safe Routes to School program statewide. As a part of the Safe Routes to School program, Mississippi had a huge response to International Walk to School Day (300% increase in participants from 2008 to 2009!), which could be in part due to the Walk to School Challenge and the awarding of the Golden Sneaker Award. This award was presented to the school with the highest percentage of walkers based on school population. The competition was fierce for this coveted golden sneaker. Lake Elementary in Pascagoula brought home the golden sneaker with 46.3% of the students participating in International Walk to School Day. The City of Pascagoula understands the positive impact of improving walkability and bikeability.

The Mississippi SRTS 2010 Calendar – Walk Smart Bike Smart, showcasing artwork by 4th – 6th graders around the state, is now available. Mississippi has also completed the pilot of its new statewide Crossing Guard Training Program and will be expanding the program in the coming year. Finally, Mississippi Department of Transportation anticipates opening the next application round in late 2010/early 2011.

For more information on the Mississippi Safe Routes to School Program, please contact Cookie Leffler, SRTS Coordinator, at (601) 359-1454 or cleffler@mdot.state.ms.us. For more information on joining the Mississippi SRTS State Network, please contact Karen Mogridge, SRTS Organizer, at mississippi@saferoutespartnership.org.


9. ODOT Targets Record $11 million to SRTS Projects
41 Ohio communities receive funding

With projects aimed at keeping children from walking in the streets or along train tracks to developing a bike ambassador program, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) invested a record $11 million to make getting to school safer for students in 41 Ohio communities.

The $11 million in federal transportation funds to be invested this year will represent the most ODOT has invested in its successful Safe Routes to School program since it began in 2004. In all, ODOT will fund 66 projects ranging from $1,650 to $500,000.

Among the largest projects to be funded, the city of Columbus will receive $500,000 to construct new sidewalks and a safer railroad crossing to prevent children at Westmoor Middle and Valleyview Elementary schools from walking along dangerous railroad tracks to get to school. The city will receive an additional $500,000 for new signage and crosswalks to provide safer intersections near two elementary schools.

Other large investments include the Village of Sheffield, $500,000 for a new walkway to connect large residential areas to Sheffield Middle and William Barr Elementary schools. Approximately 1,400 students are expected to use the walkway when it is complete.

Other construction projects include: $100,000 to the city of Athens for construction of two hillside stairwells to serve two schools and $105,000 to the city of Gahanna for construction of a designated bike lane along a busy roadway.

Another 17 communities around Ohio will receive funding to increase law enforcement near school zones or to develop educational materials and events which encourage more students to walk or bicycle to school.

For more information on Ohio’s Safe Routes to School program, please contact Julie Walcoff, SRTS Coordinator, at julie.walcoff@dot.state.oh.us or (614) 466-3049.


10. SRTS 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