Safe Routes to School E-News
Issue #71: November 2011
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:
Late on Friday, November 4, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released their draft surface transportation bill. The bill is called “MAP-21: Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.”
We appreciate the continued inclusion of funding opportunities for bicycling and walking in MAP-21, but are concerned about a number of provisions in the draft legislation. Under the Senate draft:
- The Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements and Recreational Trails programs would be combined into a new “Additional Activities” program within the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program (CMAQ), with less funding available than the current spending level for the three programs combined.
- In addition, an expanded list of project types are eligible for “Additional Activities”, including NEPA compliance and land acquisition for wetland mitigation.
- Finally, the bill includes a clause that would effectively allow states to opt-out of spending any money on “Additional Activities”, and to redirect funds to any activities eligible in the broader CMAQ program.
We are working closely with the leadership and members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to make specific improvements in the bill. We are focused on restoring dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking and on removing the opt-out clause. As a bipartisan group of Senators have voted three times in the past two months to sustain bicycle and pedestrian funding, we are hopeful that these issues will be resolved. Please see our joint statement with the America Bikes coalition for additional details.
In terms of next steps, the Environment and Public Works Committee is considering the bill on Wednesday, November 9. We are working with members of the Committee to discuss concerns about the bicycling and walking provisions, and hope to be able to improve the language over the coming weeks before the legislation moves to the full Senate for consideration. Please visit our website in the coming days for an update on the Committee actions and an updated analysis of the bill’s provisions.
In addition, Speaker of the House Boehner recently announced that the House will be taking up their transportation bill in December. Look for more news soon about the House provisions.
As this process moves forward in both the Senate and the House, we will let you know when it is time to take action and ask your Senators and Representatives to support Safe Routes to School and bicycling and walking funding. By standing together, we will ensure continued support for Safe Routes to School and bicycle and pedestrian projects, which create jobs, increase physical activity, improve safety, and benefit the environment.
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership creates and uses the “State of the States” quarterly report to track each state’s implementation of federal Safe Routes to School funds. We look at how much funding states have announced for local communities and statewide spending, plus how much has been obligated—which measures funding the state has actually spent or has contracted to spend. The newly available 2011 quarter 3 and 2011 quarter 4 reports show the progress states have made over the past six months. As of the close of fiscal year 2011, of the $978 million made available to states:
- States have announced $727.6 million in awards to local communities and for statewide spending—74 percent of available funds.
- Over the past six months, states have announced $151 million in funding for local communities and statewide spending—a very impressive number.
- 11 states have allocated more than 90 percent of their available funding.
- Obligation figures also increased steadily, with states obligating nearly $80 million over the past six months.
We encourage you to take a look at your own state’s numbers to see how it measures up, and to work with your DOT to have available funds awarded and obligated.
3. Take the National Partnership and Safe Routes to School to the Next Level
Please donate today!
We are continually amazed at the commitment of the Safe Routes to School volunteers, advocates and donors that are helping to grow this movement. Whether it is raising your voice to contact Congress when Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements are threatened, or volunteering at thousands of walk and bike to school events or coming forward to contribute to our general operations, you are all truly committed and for that we are thankful. We owe special thanks to several organizations and individuals that have gone above and beyond this year.
First, thank you to our steering committee members who each contributed to the National Partnership this fall, their commitment has given us great momentum as we head into our year-end giving campaign, which is active now through the end of December. Our year-end giving campaign supports our federal advocacy efforts and there has never been a more important time to act! Committee markups on the transportation reauthorization bill begin in a few days. Please donate today so we can continue to respond and update you quickly.
Second, a big shout out to all of the Clif Bar 2 Mile Challenge Red Team members who logged more than 140,000 miles and reduced 19,060 car trips, saving more than 130,000 lbs of CO2. We never gave up, achieved 2nd place and have received a $25,000 grant to support our mission. Thank you Clif Bar! Ryan Mayo, Environmental Activism Manager at Clif Bar also sent along his praise: “Congratulations to the Red Team for their tremendous effort in the 2011 2 Mile Challenge! It was a hard-fought competition that ultimately came with a ton of collective passion for getting out of the car and onto bikes to help support the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.”
Together our collective impact is helping take the National Partnership and the Safe Routes to School movement to the next level.
As reported in October E-News, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released voluntary school siting guidelines that the Safe Routes to School National Partnership applauds. Potential new school sites and/or a school’s physical condition and environmental factors should play a significant role when school districts consider school closures and renovation versus new construction. These issues are important for Safe Routes to School advocates to understand, and the guidelines are an excellent resource.
The guidelines recommend that school districts “develop [a] long-range school facilities plan”, “establish [a] school siting committee”, “provide opportunities for training and technical assistance” for committee members, and “determine if a new school facility is needed...[which] may include getting community input on the influence of the existing school on the well-being of the overall community, including disadvantaged/ underserved, minority and low-income populations”.
The guidelines recommend that school districts “locate school such that neighborhood resources [community facilities, parks, public pools, etc.] are within walking/biking distance of schools and/or joint use is available onsite”, that districts “locate school such that a large portion of the student body lives within ½ mile (elementary) to 1½ miles (high school) of school”, and “ensure that safe routes to and from school are available for students”. These recommendations are meant to provide these potential benefits: “ability to walk or bike to compatible student resources; reduced bus transportation costs; less air pollution; increased exercise and increased pedestrian and bike safety”.
In October, the Maryland Board of Public Works approved a new regulation impacting school siting within the scope of the state’s smart growth policies. The Maryland network has been instrumental in ensuring that school siting is integrated with smart growth planning. By working closely with network partners from the Maryland Interagency Committee on Public School construction, the network was able to build a foundation of open, collaborative planning with key leadership staff of the affiliated Maryland Departments of Planning and Education. The network identified ways to improve school siting by providing input on metrics for new construction and school renovation projects to be used in evaluating school sites for state capital funding. The network played a big role in encouraging the state to acquire information about the transportation network surrounding potential school sites, including how students are expected to get to school and school busing costs. By requiring that schools be built within existing communities, the state can use its funding as an incentive to ensure that schools are located within walking and bicycling distance from where students live.
For more information on the network project, please visit www.saferoutespartnership.org/state/network.
5. Free Webinar: Increasing Bicycling in Low-Income Communities
November 30 at 1pm ET – register today
The Bicycling and Safe Routes to School webinars, funded by the SRAM Cycling Fund and presented by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, continue to provide technical support to communities looking to build upon the bicycling components of their Safe Routes to School programs.
The most recent webinar, “Nonprofit Organizations and Safe Routes to School”, provided listeners with the tools to conduct a successful Safe Routes to School campaign that work to bolster their organization’s membership and programming while building important political support. A recording of the webinar, a PDF of its slides, its tip sheet, chat report as well as questions and answers are now available on the National Partnership’s website.
The sixth free webinar, “Strategies for Increasing Bicycling in Low-Income Communities”, will showcase the programs of experts from organizations that have found new and innovative ways to engage low-income communities in bicycling and Safe Routes to School while implementing a sustainable, successful model that increases bicycling in low-income neighborhoods. Sign up now for this free webinar, taking place November 30 at 1pm ET.
Formed in 2010, Advancing the Movement (ATM) is a distributed network of leaders from philanthropy, government agencies and the private, academic, voluntary and civic sectors -- serving across fields, politics and issue foci -- collaborating on policy, systems and environmental changes for a healthier, more prosperous United States.
ATM is implementing www.communitycommons.org as a democratized learning and innovation platform for:
- Enhancing the reach and impact of currently funded place-based investments;
- Applying an asset-based approach to help grow and sustain impact once funding is over;
- Supporting communities of highest burden, most of whom neither have grant financing, nor learning cohorts.
The site, which launched on October 31, is an interactive mapping, networking and learning utility for leaders of multi-sector place-based initiatives across the US, working to create healthy, equitable and sustainable communities. Some features will also serve the general public.
Registered users of www.communitycommons.org will have free access to:
- More than 7,000 GIS data layers at state, county, zip code, tract, block group and point-levels.
- Contextualized mapping, visualization, analytic, impact & communication tools and apps.
- Searchable profiles of hundreds of place-based community initiatives (multi-sector collaboratives) working towards healthy/sustainable/livable/equitable communities -- funded by government and private philanthropy -- complete with text & video narratives.
- Peer learning forums in the “interactive commons” with colleagues exploring similar interests and challenges -- hosted by leading national TA providers.
All 20 of the Safe Routes to School state networks have joined to take advantage of this great resource!
7. National Bike Summit Registration Now Open
Register by November 11 to receive an extra $50 off the early bird rate
Attend the League of American Bicyclist’s 2012 National Bike Summit – March 20-22, 2012 in Washington, DC - to help defend critical funding programs, just when America needs them the most. Don’t let Congress turn back the clock on decades of hard-fought progress towards creating a more bicycle-friendly America. Register by November 11 to receive an extra $50 off the early bird rate for a total savings of $150 and help save cycling!
Speaking of March, wouldn’t you know it but the Summit is scheduled just eight days before our current federal transportation funding program expires and has to either be extended or re-written. We’re going to need as big of a crowd as we can muster to go up Capitol Hill en masse and make the case for continued dedicated funding for bicycling programs and Safe Routes to School.
Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) awarded 20 new Safe Routes to School projects statewide in July 2011. The total number of projects under contract is now 88, since the first award in 2008, representing approximately $15 million and 155 schools. Additionally, the Alabama SRTS program is encouraging the development of park and walk areas and alternate drop-off locations in conjunction with walking school bus programs. This combination of Safe Routes to School services addresses many Safe Routes to School goals and appeals to local communities. The key to the success of these activities has been providing trained volunteers to escort the children as they walk to and from school.
ALDOT is working with local Boy Scout Troops to assist in developing community bicycle riding/safety training and starting bicycle riding clubs. These activities are creating local interest and participation, key elements of growing Safe Routes to School in Alabama.
Developing more walking school buses is a high priority for the Alabama Safe Routes to School program. “What has bright colors, traffic signs, dozens of feet, and provides exercise, companionship and a safe way to school?” This is how a WBHM-NPR news reporter described the new walking school buses in the Birmingham, Alabama area.
The United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) in Birmingham is leading the Walking School Bus initiative. UWCA received a Healthy Kids/Healthy Communities grant from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to target the fight against childhood obesity. To help meet their goals, the United Way staff collaborated with the Alabama Safe Routes to School program agencies – the Alabama Departments of Transportation, Public Health and Education. Results thus far have been effective at targeted schools with additional schools joining the program and encouraging physical activity and social interaction. See www.uwca.org/health for more information.
Oklahoma employs a two-year application cycle and is currently working on infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects in three different funding cycles. More than half of the engineering projects funded in the 2007-2009 cycle are 80-90 percent constructed with the remaining in various stages of completion. Educational programs such as the walking school bus, AAA Safety Patrol and Oklahoma SafeCyclist programs have been implemented throughout the state. Preliminary engineering has begun for awarded projects in the 2009-2011 cycle. Proposals included sidewalks connecting neighborhoods to schools, school zone improvements and various educational programs and activities in excess of $3 million. The 2011-2013 application cycle closed on October 27, 2011. Oklahoma has approximately $3 million available to fund proposed projects.
Kevin Mussett, Oklahoma’s new state network organizer, is continuing the efforts of Don Norvelle leading the state network. He worked with the Oklahoma Bicycling Coalition to head a committee to host Oklahoma’s first Oklahoma Bicycling Summit on November 4-5. Currently more than 50 Oklahoma network partners are working together to educate and promote Safe Routes to School in the state. One partner, AAA, sponsors 220 elementary schools that have Safety Patrol Units providing training and equipment. Eighteen SafeCyclist instructors have been trained with the assistance of the Oklahoma Department of Health and they, in turn, have provided training for 46 elementary PE teachers.
For more information on Oklahoma’s Safe Routes to School program, contact Ernestine Mbroh, Safe Routes to School coordinator. For more information on Oklahoma’s Safe Routes to School state network project, contact Kevin Musset, state network organizer.
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.