September 2011

Safe Routes to School E-News

Issue #69: September 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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To receive future issues of E-News, email info@saferoutespartnership.org.

In this issue:

1. Safe Routes to School National Conference in Minneapolis Hosts 600 Attendees

2. September Is National Childhood Obesity Month

3. International Walk to School Day Is Wednesday, October 5

4. Celebrate Worldwide Day of Play on Saturday, September 24

5. Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s Federal Update

6. Safe Routes to School State Network Project Update

7. Free Webinar: Funding, Organizing and Maintaining Bicycle Fleets

8. Iowa Is Committed to Walking and Bicycling to School

9. Pennsylvania Has New Resource Center for Non-Infrastructure

10. Safe Routes to School News Throughout the Country


1. Safe Routes to School National Conference in Minneapolis Hosts 600 Attendees
National Partnership’s Annual Meeting notes also available

The 3rd Safe Routes to School National Conference was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota from August 16-18. It brought together 600 advocates and leaders from throughout the US to energize their Safe Routes to School planning, strengthen their networks and to elevate the vision of how we all can create healthier and safer kids and communities. Special thanks to Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota for doing a fabulous job hosting the well-organized and fun conference.

The conference featured mobile workshops to explore the beautiful streets and trails of Minneapolis, a multitude of break-out sessions and receptions and motivating keynote speakers ranging from Congressman Oberstar, the father of Safe Routes to School, to Kimberly White, an eloquent youth cycling and environmental justice advocate from New York City. You can read Deb Hubsmith’s blogs from the conference at saferoutespartnership.org/blog, and check out our Facebook page for videos, photos and more.

The National Partnership’s Annual Meeting was held in conjunction with the conference on August 15. The 2011 Annual Meeting gave Safe Routes advocates time to join together to discuss successes and challenges, and how to grow Safe Routes to School exponentially. To read through the meeting notes click here. Save the date now for our 2012 Annual Meeting – Monday, September 10, 2012 from 1-5 PM in Long Beach, California in conjunction with the Pro Walk Pro Bike Conference!


2. September Is National Childhood Obesity Month
Celebrate by walking and bicycling to school

President Obama and Congress proclaimed September 2010 the first-ever Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, calling national attention and action to this epidemic. This year, advocates are building on that success in planning for the second National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and have provided a toolkit to support your efforts. This is your opportunity to unite with leaders in the White House and Congress, with the Governor of your state and Mayor of your city and with all in your community who care about our youth and the health of our nation today and tomorrow. Here are some highlights:

  • National, state and local leaders are called on to support and observe National Childhood Obesity Awareness month this September.
  • Organizations around the United States will plan and carry out activities that build awareness about childhood obesity and encourage action.
  • Individuals will take steps to help reverse the rise of childhood obesity.

Every person in the US can be an important part of Childhood Obesity Awareness Month by taking small steps (think walking and bicycling to school!) that add up to a big difference: eating more balanced meals and snacks, engaging in physical activity more regularly and sharing your personal plan and commitment with family and friends of all ages.

This toolkit provides information, weblinks and tools to promote and celebrate September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Use hashtag #childobesity in your tweets this month to join the conversation during National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.


3. International Walk to School Day Is Wednesday, October 5
Invite your Congressional members to walk with you to a local school!

International Walk to School Day is taking place next month on Wednesday, October 5, 2011. This year’s theme is “Hike it, Bike it, I like it!” More than 1,000 schools are currently registered. You can register your school today at www.walktoschool.org/register. For more resources, such as promotional tools, event ideas and more, visit www.walktoschool.org.

As you are planning your event, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership encourages you to think about the bigger picture of who to invite. Inviting your Congressional member and local elected officials to your event is a great way to show them Safe Routes to School in action and to generate more support for future funding. With the transportation bill up for reauthorization, this is the perfect time to plan an event with your Congressional member.

Check out the National Partnership’s step-by-step toolkit, which was created to assist you specifically with invitations to elected officials and gaining media attention. Please send Margo Pedroso an email to let us know about any Congressional members who will be attending your event, and contact us if you need assistance.


4. Celebrate Worldwide Day of Play on Saturday, September 24
Get out there and play with Safe Routes to School and Nickelodeon

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is excited to announce a new partnership with Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play and The Big Help project. On Worldwide Day of Play, September 24, Nickelodeon turns off all programming for three hours and encourages kids and their families to turn off their TV, get up and go play. It is a great day to kick-start your Safe Routes to School program with a bike rodeo or walk-a-thon – just in time to begin promotions for International Walk to School Day.

Be sure to share photos of your event; download a Worldwide Day of Play Playbook for all the details. If you are nearby, visit our booth and bike rodeo at the Worldwide Day of Play event in Washington, DC, on September 24; maybe First Lady Michelle Obama will stop by and see us too!

Throughout the rest of the year, Safe Routes to School will be a featured health and wellness activity of Nickelodeon’s Big Help Project. Explore all that Nickelodeon offers to encourage kids to make a difference in their homes, schools and communities. Your school could even be eligible for their grant program. We look forward to hearing about how you enjoyed your Worldwide Day of Play; share your stories and photos with us on our Facebook page.


5. Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s Federal Update
September is a critical month; please do your part to tell Congress about SRTS benefits

After spending August back in their districts, Congress is reconvening this week. September is a critical month for transportation, as the current transportation extension and the federal gas tax are set to expire on September 30. Another transportation extension and the continuation of the federal gas tax will need to be passed this month for transportation spending to continue flowing.

In remarks in late August, President Obama called upon Congress to pass a “clean extension” (i.e. extending spending levels as-is, without policy changes) to the transportation bill so that transportation jobs can continue. The US Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and the US Conference of Mayors have all echoed the President’s call.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) is expected to consider its extension on September 8. Senator Boxer (D-CA), who chairs EPW, has been tying the extension to jobs in every state. Rep. Mica (R-FL), who chairs the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, has indicated that he will support one more extension to the transportation bill. While it is positive that key leaders are moving towards an extension, Sen. Coburn (R-OK) has threatened that he will try to block the extension unless Transportation Enhancements is removed. Should Sen. Coburn carry out his threat, we could be facing a Senate vote on eliminating funding for bicycling and walking. We will keep you posted and will put out a call to action if this threat materializes.

In addition to wrangling over the extension, we are likely to see increased pressure to move forward on a longer-term transportation reauthorization. President Obama is addressing Congress on September 8 to discuss job creation; it is widely expected that he will include a push on infrastructure spending. A recent national study found that bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects create more jobs per million dollars spent than road repair and construction projects. The President’s speech could prompt the House or Senate to move forward on consideration of their full transportation bills yet this month as well.

With so many decisions being made this month, now is the time to make sure your Congressional delegations knows why Safe Routes to School is important to your community. We know it is a very busy back-to-school time—but please make time to do your part and speak up for Safe Routes to School. Our handy flyer gives you talking points and ideas for how to get SRTS supporters to contact Congress, how to schedule a meeting to talk with your Member of Congress or their staff, and how to invite a Member of Congress to your Walk to School Day events. Thousands of schools are registered for Walk to School Day – every one of them should be inviting a Member of Congress to participate. Please let margo@saferoutespartnership.org know what you are planning with your Members of Congress. And, thank you as always for your support.


6. Safe Routes to School State Network Project Update
Saving neighborhood schools to increase bicycling and walking

Statewide policies on where schools can be located, minimum campus acreage requirements and funding formulas on renovation versus new construction, often negatively impact the percentage of students who live close enough to bicycle or walk to school and have access to school facilities for physical activity after school hours. Studies show that school renovation provides more jobs than new school construction, and minimum acreage requirements have resulted in many new high schools taking up to 140 acres of land, often on the outskirts of communities, away from city centers! School siting policy is the reason.

In 2010, the Safe Routes to School state network project (network project) formed a working group of national experts on school siting, closure, consolidation and joint-use, working to find policy solutions that protect neighborhood schools. Since 2007, the network project has been educating decision-makers and agencies on the benefits of neighborhood or community-centered schools, facilitating cross-agency collaboration and working to change policies to protect and encourage community-centered schools and promote joint-use.

For example, in 2010 the Virginia network recommended that the Virginia Department of Education include the promotion of walking and bicycling to school in its revised Public School Facility Guidelines. The department’s staff responded favorably, and subsequently inserted school siting language, although the final draft was missing the new language. The network quickly responded, requesting that the language be reinserted, which prompted the administration to approve and post the revised guidelines.

The Montana network conducted research on the number of children living near schools in Billings being considered for closure. The data showed that the town core had 353 students per mile, but the proposed site for a new school only had 27.5 per mile. Armed with this data, the network prompted the school board to change its school siting policy, including partnering with other agencies, involving the public and reconsidering all of its school facility plans. This resulted in the protection of historic school buildings in Billings.

For more information on the network project, please visit www.saferoutespartnership.org/state/network. This fall, we will be releasing a tip sheet on what advocates can do to protect community schools in light of school closure plans.


7. Free Webinar: Funding, Organizing and Maintaining Bicycle Fleets
September 14 at 1pm ET – register today

Delivering a comprehensive traffic safety Safe Routes to School lesson often includes the use of bicycles, yet most bicycle educators know that allowing students to use their own and often malfunctioning bicycles can interfere with valuable class time. Safe Routes to School programs that have funded, organized and maintained their own bicycle fleets have experienced unprecedented success through continued access to a functional fleet of bicycles.

Join us for presentations from advocates, schools and a bicycle manufacturer’s grant program that built their individual Safe Routes to School programs through strategically funding, thoughtfully organizing and systematically maintaining fleets of bicycles for use in the classroom. This webinar will be an excellent resource for those who have not yet attained a bicycle fleet and for those who are looking for pointers on how to better organize and upkeep their existing fleets. Click here to register now!

Thanks to the SRAM Cycling Fund, the National Partnership is holding six webinars in 2011 on bicycling and Safe Routes to School. You can view our three previous webinars here. For more information, please contact Dave Cowan at dave@saferoutespartnership.org.


8. Iowa Is Committed to Walking and Bicycling to School
Accepting applications through October 1

The Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) has awarded all of its federal funding, totaling more than $7 million. As a result, more than 90 infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects have been awarded, of which 25 have been completed. Most recently, Iowa DOT awarded four non-infrastructure projects totaling $180,000 and 14 infrastructure projects totaling $1.5 million.

Iowa DOT is currently accepting applications for infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects. Awards will be made contingent upon funds becoming available in the next transportation bill. The deadline for applications is October 1, 2011 and roughly $1.6 million is anticipated to be funded.

Infrastructure projects in Iowa have ranged from the installation of sidewalks to the installation of two pedestrian bridges in route to two elementary schools. An example of one non-infrastructure project Iowa DOT funded is a walking school bus program in two cities, which partners with the county health department to organize the structure and implementation of the program. As part of this program, a workshop will be facilitated by Pednet.org.

Iowa has been able to sustain walking and bicycling to school beyond the annual International Walk to School Day. In Decorah, two walking school buses ran all winter long despite the harsh winter weather. Iowa DOT’s non-infrastructure component is contracted out to the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, under the leadership of Safe Routes to School manager, Nick Sobocinski.

For more information on Iowa’s Safe Routes to School program, contact Kathy Ridnour, Safe Routes to School coordinator.


9. Pennsylvania Has New Resource Center for Non-Infrastructure
Saferoutespa.org serves as central clearinghouse for all non-infrastructure resources

To date, Pennsylvania has constructed three infrastructure projects, largely involving sidewalk construction and replacement, with many going to construction in the coming year. The projects in the coming year will fill in existing sidewalk gaps, add crosswalks and update signs and signals.

Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) was selected to administer the non-infrastructure side of Pennsylvania’s Safe Routes to School program. For the next three years, PSATS will work with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to develop various resources and trainings, and to provide non-infrastructure support to schools across Pennsylvania. A new website, www.saferoutespa.org, now serves as the central clearinghouse for all non-infrastructure news, resources, funding and training available in Pennsylvania. Beginning on Walk to School Day (October 5) PSATS will offer up to $100,000 of non-infrastructure grants. Grant proposals are due by November 15, 2011. For more information, visit www.saferoutespa.org/noninfrastructure-grants.

Pennsylvania Safe Routes to School state network project partners are working to support these statewide initiatives, as well as move forward their own priorities. PA Walks and Bikes has been connecting PSATS with best practices and assisting with the review of educational content, and this summer, Safe Routes Philly took its nationally-recognized education program to the next level through the Summer Youth Bicycle and Environmental Program.

For more information on Pennsylvania’s Safe Routes to School program, contact Chris Metka, Safe Routes to School coordinator, at cmetka@pa.gov. For more information on the Pennsylvania Safe Routes to School state network project, contact Josh Karns, state network organizer, at pennsylvania@saferoutespartnership.org.


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