Safe Routes to School E-News
Issue #59: November 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. The National Partnership’s 2011-2015 Final Strategic Plan
Thanks to the hundreds of people and organizations who provided input
2. Bicycle and Pedestrian Curricula Tool Being Created
Fill out a short survey by November 24 on existing curricula
3. Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s Federal Update
Election results are in; impact on transportation bill uncertain
4. States on a Roll in Obligating Safe Routes to School Funds
Third quarter 2010 State of the States now available
5. Safe Routes to School State Network Project Update
Walk and bike to school events with policy makers are a success
6. The National Partnership’s Local Evaluation Project
Five schools throughout the country selected to participate
7. National Center for Safe Routes to School News
Mini-grants available and Oberstar award announced
8. California Moving on SRTS, Complete Streets, Climate and More
The CA SRTS network takes a comprehensive approach to policy change
9. “MassDOT SRTS Program Reaches 25 Percent of Commonwealth Students
Nearly 350 elementary/middle schools in 116 communities partnering with the program
10. SRTS News Throughout the Country
Local and state SRTS program news links
Throughout 2010, the National Partnership has been working to develop a five-year strategic plan for the years 2011-2015. We are excited to share the final Strategic Plan that was adopted by our Steering Committee on November 3. A sincere thank you goes out to the nearly 1,000 people who were interviewed, completed a survey, attended our annual meeting and/or provided written comments on the draft strategic plan. With your help, we believe that we have successfully honed in on the most important goals, focus areas, objectives and tactics to ensure a strong and sustainable Safe Routes to School movement and a world in which children can safely walk and bicycle to school, and in daily life. We look forward to working with our partners to advance the Safe Routes to School movement through the implementation of our Strategic Plan in the coming years. We will have a graphically designed version of the Strategic Plan by the end of December, but we are pleased to share the final text now.
2. New Bicycle and Pedestrian Curricula Tool Being Created
Fill out a short survey by November 24 on existing curricula
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership, with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is undertaking the creation of a Bicycle and Pedestrian Curricula Tool (BPCT) that will aid teachers, school districts and bicycle and pedestrian instructors throughout the country in successfully matching their unique classroom needs with suitable bicycle and pedestrian curricula. The BPCT will help practitioners identify the curriculum that best fits the time, resources and expertise available in the classroom with the developmental level of the students, state Physical Education requirements and school budgets.
We are currently looking for feedback and information on existing bicycle and pedestrian curricula. This provides an excellent opportunity to highlight the positive aspects of your community’s curriculum, successful examples of it in action and further expose it to the national market. If you are interested in highlighting your curriculum in the BPCT or would like to provide feedback on existing curricula, please take five minutes to fill out this survey by November 24.
If you have any further questions please contact Dave Cowan, Program Manager, of the National Partnership.
Last week’s elections are resulting in many changes in Congress. First and foremost, long-time Safe Routes to School champion Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, lost his House seat in a close re-election. We encourage Safe Routes to School supporters to take a few moments to send Congressman Oberstar an e-mail to thank him for his legacy of creating Safe Routes to School.
Since the House of Representatives has changed to Republican control, there will be a shift in leadership at the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee that governs transportation policy, including Safe Routes to School. Republicans will select their Committee chairs at the end of November, and it is expected that Rep. Mica (R-FL) will likely be selected to lead the Transportation Committee. The top “ranking member” spot for Democrats will likely go to either Rep. Rahall (D-WV) or Rep. DeFazio (D-OR). Safe Routes to School has bipartisan support—and several House Republicans attended Safe Routes to School events in their districts this fall—but it will now be increasingly important to convey the economic, safety and health benefits of Safe Routes to School and the positive results it is having throughout Congressional Districts in all 50 states. It will also be helpful for the field to remember that the Safe Routes to School program was originally created and funded in 2005 when Republicans were in the majority in both the House and Senate, and had the Presidency.
In the Senate, Democrats retained control of the chamber and it is likely that the Committee on Environment and Public Works, which handles transportation, will remain under the leadership of Chairman Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member Inhofe (R-OK). Only 4 of the 26 current Senate co-sponsors of S. 1156, the Safe Routes to School Program Reauthorization bill, either retired or lost their elections—meaning that Senate support for Safe Routes to School remains strong.
In terms of the overall transportation bill, the presumed House Transportation Chair Mica has already gone on the record indicating that he will work hard to pass a robust, long-term transportation bill. Getting that done will require bipartisan collaboration in a split Congress. And, funding the transportation bill remains a problem – Congress will have to identify a new revenue sources amenable to both Republicans and Democrats, or move forward with a smaller transportation bill. In the meantime, Congress must pass a transportation extension before December 31, 2010. A shorter extension could indicate that Congressional leaders are interested in working on a multi-year transportation bill.
Overall—it is important that Safe Routes to School supporters keep producing results and sharing local successes with their Members of Congress. We will continue to keep you informed and provide further direction as the outlook for federal transportation policy becomes more clear.
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s new “State of the States” shows that in the third quarter of 2010, state Departments of Transportation (DOT) awarded $15 million in funds and obligated nearly $41 million. States have now obligated $334 million of all available funds, and this quarter had the most funds obligated since we have been tracking the program. The amount of funds obligated each quarter has been increasing steadily all year, demonstrating that states are focusing on getting projects built and implemented. Take a look at the chart and see how your state DOT is doing. If your state is below the national average, we encourage you to contact your state DOT to ask about a plan for increasing obligation rates for SRTS.
In September and October, our State Network Project organizers planned and participated in walk and bike to school promotional events, including International Walk to School Day on October 6, 2010. These celebrations were coordinated by local teams and were attended by thousands of kids and parents, school staff, local and state elected officials, network partners and most notably, Congressional members and US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood.
Here is a recap of some of these exciting events:
Florida: Congressman John Mica (R-FL), who is expected to become the next chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, attended a meeting of local leaders, community members and students on October 22, 2010 at Westside Elementary School in Volusia County, FL. Principal Judi Winch and George Lovett, Director of Transportation Development for the Florida DOT, thanked Congressman Mica for providing funding for Safe Routes to School, which has supported $1.5 million in sidewalk projects around schools in Volusia County, bike racks and trailers of bike safety equipment. Volusia County Council Chair Frank Bruno presented a proclamation from the Council supporting Safe Routes to School, and Congressman Mica gave the principal a flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol building on October 6 in honor of Walk to School Day. After the event, Congressman Mica accompanied students walking home from school. In a press release, the Congressman observed: “The Safe Routes to School Program is a great initiative that encourages kids to walk or bike to school. It is a win-win, benefiting the security of our students and making our roadways and bike paths safer for everyone.”
Kentucky: On October 6, 2010, Lt. Governor Daniel Mongiardo recognized several Kentucky communities participating in International Walk to School Day, including schools in Bowling Green, Lexington, Louisville, Murray and Southgate. “An energetic approach to childhood health lays the foundation for a lifetime of wellness,” said Lt. Governor Mongiardo. “As a doctor, I know the importance of keeping our children physically active in order to promote good health today and tomorrow. Walking or riding a bike is definitely a step in the right direction.”
Maryland: At East Silver Spring Elementary School on October 6, US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony Brown were on hand to walk students from the 3rd District Police station to the school. Secretary LaHood summed up the event stating, “As a father, grandfather and former schoolteacher, I know how important it is that we provide students with safe options for getting to school while promoting exercise and healthy lifestyles. That’s why I’ve embraced the Safe Routes to School program so wholeheartedly since becoming Secretary of Transportation.”
Tennessee: On October 6, 2010, Congressman John Duncan (R-TN) joined students and families in walking to Beaumont Elementary School in Knoxville, TN. The City of Knoxville is also the grant recipient of a $250,000 award for improving sidewalks and other infrastructure as part of the Tennessee Safe Routes to School program. “I supported the creation of this grant program as a member of the Transportation Committee in Congress, and I am so pleased for the chance to see it working on the ground here in Knoxville,” Congressman Duncan said. “Many children are increasingly becoming attached to computers and video games and getting outdoors less and less. We can all use some more exercise in our daily lives, myself included, and I would hate for a child to not be able to walk to school because of safety concerns.”
Wisconsin: On October 11, 2010, Congressman Tom Petri (R-WI) held a press conference after walking with students to Omro Middle School. He was joined by our own WI state network organizer, Jessica Wineberg Binder, and representatives from the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, who were on hand to answer questions about Safe Routes to School programs throughout the state. Upon arriving at the school, Congressman Petri spoke to students, telling them, “This is a great event. We want to be sure that kids can bike and walk to school in a safe way and encourage them to do so. This lays the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle and sets them on the right path - a good path for all of us to follow." The Congressman also took the time to learn about recess bike rides as part of the physical education curriculum, an in-school bike shop, an earn-a-bike program and a school fitness trail.
The National Partnership has selected five schools throughout the country to participate in a comprehensive SRTS Evaluation Project funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the American Public Health Association. After reviewing a large pool of diverse applications, the Partnership chose schools in Calhan, CO; Milton, GA; Alexandria, VA; Cheverly, MD; and Oxford, MS to participate.
The National Partnership’s Evaluation Project aims to compare current standardized SRTS surveys and tallies with the daily automated counts of students who walk and/or bicycle to school. The project began this fall with the installation of a “Zap” unit at each participating school that records each registered pedestrian or bicycle trip through a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip. The Zap units, a product of Boltage.org (previously Freiker), are a new technology that automate the process of counting students who walk and bicycle to school through the RFID tag that is scanned when students arrive at the school. This technology will aid the Evaluation Project in closely examining the effects of various Safe Routes to School interventions, activities and infrastructure changes on the number of students who choose to walk or bicycle to school.
The National Center for Safe Routes to School (the National Center) is accepting applications until Friday, November 19 for 25 mini-grants of $1,000 each. These mini-grants will fund activities that range from foundational efforts to help start or sustain a program to new ideas that explore the range of benefits of safe walking and bicycling to school. Funded activities must occur at an elementary or middle school between January 2011 and the end of the spring 2011 semester. Applications are available now at www.saferoutesinfo.org/minigrants.
In other news, the National Center recently announced that Alpine Elementary School, in Alpine, Utah, is the recipient of the 2010 James L. Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award, a national annual award that recognizes outstanding achievement in conducting a Safe Routes to School program. Alpine Elementary is part of the Alpine School District, the lowest funded school district in the nation. The school has received federal Safe Routes to School funding through the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) in the amount of $71,500, to install four solar-powered speed limit signs designed to slow traffic and improve student visibility at crosswalks, build a new walking/bicycling trail, make improvements to the bicycle storage area and to support encouragement and educational activities. Alpine City donated approximately $125,000 in labor and materials toward improving routes to school. A big congratulations to Alpine for this huge achievement!
California is one of 20 states participating in our Safe Routes to School State Network Project, which is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Kaiser Permanente. The network has been working to leverage additional funding and change policies to benefit SRTS in the following ways:
State SR2S Program:
California led the way towards launching the SRTS national movement in 1999 when state legislation began to allocate one-third of all federal safety funds to the SR2S program. After several legislation updates, California law now requires Caltrans to allocate $24.25 million each year from the State Highway Account Fund for infrastructure improvements around schools. On October 18, 2010 Caltrans announced the results of Cycle 9. Go to http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/saferoutes/sr2s.htm to see the list of projects.
Highway Safety Improvement Program Funds:
The California state network worked with Caltrans and UC Berkeley to develop a safety index which measures bike/ped crash risks – so as to make more of this money available for safety improvements that support active transportation. There is currently a call for applications for safety improvement projects for $70 million, due December 9.
In February, Governor Schwarzenegger announced that as part of his childhood obesity initiative, he would focus on SRTS and serving low-income communities. He directed Caltrans to do an analysis of past SRTS grants, to see how the funds are being distributed throughout the state. The network has been working with the CA Department of Public Health’s California Active Communities department, which received a $4M grant from Caltrans to create the Safe Routes to School Technical Assistance Resource Center. The resource center provides technical assistance to communities throughout the state working on SRTS projects, with a commitment to serving low-income communities.
The 2008 CA law AB1358 (Complete Streets Act) will take effect January 1, 2011, requiring all city and county General Plan updates to include a policy on complete streets as part of the circulation element of the General Plan. The network has been working with the State Office of Planning and Research and an action team on draft guidance to cities and counties for implementation.
As the first state to enact climate change legislation (AB32 and SB375), California has been a learning ground for how to better coordinate land use and transportation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The network has been working with ClimatePlan and other partners to support the California Air Resources Board and the state’s 18 Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO’s) in developing ambitious and achievable targets for greenhouse gas reduction. This work will result in more walkable/bikeable communities, and impact future climate policy for the nation and in other states.
The Southern California Regional SRTS network started in January 2010 with funding from Kaiser Permanente. This network is focusing on policy change for the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) region of 190 cities and 18 million people. The network has developed an exciting Regional Platform to advance Safe Routes to School, complete streets, a Regional Bike Network and improved planning, data collection and evaluation for bike/ped facilities and programs.
For more information on state DOT efforts for Safe Routes to School in California, see Caltrans’ webpage. To join the southern California or state networks, contact Jessica Meaney, California Policy Manager for the National Partnership, who is based in Los Angeles.
Through its Safe Routes to School program, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has developed partnerships with nearly 350 elementary and middle schools in 116 communities to educate and encourage students to walk and bicycle to school. In order to support these partnerships, MassDOT will spend $4.42 million for Safe Routes initiatives in fiscal year 2011. While the Safe Routes to School program reaches only 7 percent of eligible students nationally, the Massachusetts Safe Routes program is reaching 25 percent of students.
In addition to its education and encouragement program, MassDOT’s on-call team of engineers, planners and bicycle/pedestrian experts also provides infrastructure assessment and design services that facilitate construction of bricks and mortar safety and access improvements around partner schools. Through a focused, streamlined planning and design approach, MassDOT’s Safe Routes to School infrastructure team conserves capital funding and delivers more resources into actual results rather than administration. MassDOT currently has one access and safety improvement project completed, four others entering construction, seven in design and 37 receiving assessments of their needs.
The Jackson Street School in Northampton was Massachusetts’ first infrastructure project to be completed, and was financed with ARRA funds. The total project cost was approximately $538,000 and it included the construction of raised crosswalks adjacent to the school, reconstruction of the school driveway to reduce the curb radius and narrow the crossing, reconstruction of sidewalks between a popular bikeway and the school and construction of a ramp from the bikeway to the rebuilt sidewalk.
The Jackson Street School was also one of 250 participating schools in International Walk to School Day and Massachusetts Walk and Bike to School Day. This year featured Governor Deval Patrick’s proclamation for Walk and Bike to School Day, an online registration and a user-friendly website for ordering promotional items. These incentives yielded a total of over participating 50,000 students.
For more information, visit www.mass.gov/massdot/SafeRoutes.
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: