- Safe Routes to School Local Policy Guide
- Safe Routes to School Local Stories: Addressing Community Needs
- NPLAN Releases New Resources on Reducing Liability Concerns
- SRTS Back to School Fact Sheet
- Making the Most of Non-Infrastructure Safe Routes to School Funds
- Serving Students with Disabilities Through Safe Routes to School Programs
- School Bicycling and Walking Policies: Addressing Policies That Hinder and Implementing Policies That Help
- Safe Routes to School: Creative and Safe Solutions to School Bus Cuts
- Walking and Bicycling to School and the Heavy Backpack
- Safe Routes to School: A Great Way to Get Youth with and without Disabilities More Active
- 10 Tips for Safe Routes to School Programs and Liability
Safe Routes to School Local Policy Guide
The Safe Routes Partnership is pleased to announce the release of a new publication entitled Safe Routes to School Local Policy Guide. This guide was published to help local communities and schools create, enact and implement policies which will support active and healthy community environments that encourage safe walking and bicycling and physical activity by children through a Health in All Policies approach. The Safe Routes Partnership plans to continue to catalog and publicize policy wins that promote Safe Routes to School. If you have an example, please email the details to program manager Dave Cowan.
Safe Routes to School Local Stories: Addressing Community Needs
You probably rode your bicycle or walked to school, because approximately half of kids used to do this in 1969. Unfortunately, today, only 13% of schoolchildren walk or bicycle to school. As a result, kids today are less active and healthy. Federal funding is provided for Safe Routes to School projects such as sidewalks, bike lanes, pathways and educational programs. To keep this program growing, the Safe Routes Partnership leads national efforts to promote safe walking and bicycling to and from schools, and in everyday life, to improve the health and well-being of America’s children and to foster the creation of livable, sustainable communities.
Click here to read some Safe Routes to School local stories on various topics. These stories include specific examples of how Safe Routes to School is working in local communities across the nation.
NPLAN Releases New Resources on Reducing Liability Concerns
The National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity (NPLAN) recently released new resources about liability. They also presented a webinar on August 11 on Safe Routes to School (SRTS) and liability for childhood obesity prevention policymakers and advocates. An archived copy of the webinar can be accessed here. The webinar provided the basics of liability in the context of SRTS and how school districts, nonprofit organizations and others can reduce their liability in SRTS programs.
Despite the many benefits of SRTS, some schools have been reluctant to support SRTS programs due to concerns about being sued if an injury or problem arises. But such fears are largely unwarranted. By acting responsibly and understanding liability issues, schools, nonprofits and parent groups can help students reap the health and academic benefits of SRTS programs while minimizing any risks.
The first fact sheet - Safe Routes to School: Minimizing Your Liability Risk, addresses liability fears and offers practical tips for schools and community advocates to support SRTS programs.
The second fact sheet - Volunteers and Liability: The Federal Volunteer Protection Act, provides an overview of legal protections designed to shield volunteers from liability.
SRTS Back to School Fact Sheet
The Partnership has created a fact sheet for increasing physical activity levels and creating healthy, livable communities.
Making the Most of Non-Infrastructure Safe Routes to School Funds
The Partnership finalized a non-infrastructure white paper - Making the Most of Non-Infrastructure Safe Routes to School Funds. In many states, applications for non-infrastructure funding have been low or of poor quality, but non-infrastructure programs are a critical element of making SRTS succeed. The federally-funded SRTS program requires that at least 10% of a state’s SRTS funding and at most 30% of the funding be spent on non-infrastructure activities throughout the state. With additional statewide leadership to provide outreach, training, and material resources related to education, encouragement, and enforcement, more local communities will apply for funding for comprehensive programs. This paper includes examples of various programs and approaches states are using to help increase the number and quality of non-infrastructure programs, which will also lead toward more walking and bicycling to school in a safe manner, goals of the federal program.
Non-infrastructure elements of SRTS programs are cost-effective and important for achieving the goals of the program. There is a great need to have states and practitioners share more information about successful SRTS non-infrastructure strategies that are already in place.
Serving Students with Disabilities Through Safe Routes to School Programs Position Paper
The Partnership created the Serving Students with Disabilities Through Safe Routes to School Programs position paper to apprise Congress, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the National Center for Safe Routes to School (the Clearinghouse) on recommended strategies for meeting the stated goal in section 1404 of SAFETEA-LU for serving students with disabilities through Safe Routes to School programs. The position paper is organized to address the background and need of serving students with disabilities, challenges and benefits, and four recommendations which focus on training and curricula; outreach to parents and students; pilot programs; and evaluation of the inclusion efforts for students with disabilities in Safe Routes to School programs. We hope that this paper will lead toward increased action and focus on serving students with disabilities through existing SRTS funds.
School Bicycling and Walking Policies: Addressing Policies That Hinder and Implementing Policies That Help
Children across the US are back in school, and many communities are seeing the traffic jams that result from parents driving their children to schools. To help encourage more walking and bicycling, the Safe Routes Partnership and the National Center for Safe Routes to School have released a jointly-developed resource, School Bicycling and Walking Policies: Addressing Policies that Hinder and Implementing Policies that Help. This tip sheet was developed in response to numerous requests from across the country.
School policies that encourage and support bicycling and walking can substantially boost a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, both within individual schools and throughout the community. In contrast, a policy that discourages or prohibits bicycling or walking can stop a SRTS program in its tracks. The tip sheet provides simple steps explaining how to approach and overturn barrier policies that prohibit walking and/or bicycling to school, and encouraging supportive policies, which support and enable bicycling and walking to school programs.
Safe Routes to School: Creative and Safe Solutions to School Bus Cuts
School districts all across the country are struggling to balance budgets and save money. In the summer of 2008, skyrocketing fuel costs had a significant impact on school transportation budgets. Now in 2009, the worsening economy, state budget crises, and shrinking property tax revenues are impacting school budgets. At least 20 states have implemented or proposed budget cuts to K-12 education per-pupil funding and local education grants.
When school districts face financial challenges, a common target for cuts are the school transportation system by cutting back bus routes, trimming the number of bus stops, or widening the walk radius around a school. Based on national averages, eliminating one bus route saves a school district approximately $37,000. In the summer of 2008, when fuel prices were at their peak, approximately one-third of schools consolidated bus routes in some way.
When bus routes or stops are eliminated, parents often react with anger and concern—they are concerned about dangers from traffic due to a lack of safe infrastructure, such as sidewalks and crosswalks, and about “stranger danger” if their children walk or bicycle to school.
If these concerns are not addressed when bus routes are eliminated, parents with the means to do so are likely to switch to driving their children to school, shifting transportation costs and time burden to parents. For each bus route eliminated, approximately 36 additional cars driven by parents or teens will drive to and from the school—increasing traffic congestion and air pollution around the school. There are also safety concerns—children in school buses are 13 times safer than children driven by parents and 44 times safer than children driven by teen siblings. Increasing the number of cars around the school also increases the risks for children who are walking and bicycling to school.
Safe Routes to School initiatives can help school districts manage and address parent concerns when bus routes are consolidated or eliminated. The focus of SRTS is to make it safe for children to walk and bicycle through a combination of approaches—including small, simple steps and long-term improvements. The key to any Safe Routes to School effort is a collaborative approach that engages parents and children along with school and city officials to productively solve parent concerns about safety.
When communities pull together to ensure that walking and bicycling is safe for children in the wake of cuts to school bus services, children will have a safer and healthier commute to school.
The Safe Routes Partnership convened a special working group to examine the issue. The working group has provided a series of materials that may prove useful for school officials and parents struggling with school transportation cutbacks.
For School Officials and Parents:
When faced with school bus cutbacks, parents and school officials often aren’t sure where to begin to address community concerns about the safety of children walking and bicycling. The following documents (all in PDF format) include a short getting-started guide on Safe Routes to School, a powerpoint presentation, and a profile of a local school district that has made a lot of progress on school transportation costs:
- Simple Steps to Get Started with Safe Routes to School: Resources and Information for Schools
- Powerpoint on School Bus Cuts and Safe Routes to School
- Auburn, Washington: A Proactive Approach to School Transportation Costs
For the Media and Advocates:
Many news articles that cover school bus cuts do so from a negative perspective, and do not include information about positive steps that can be taken to make it safer for children to walk and bicycle to school. The following documents can be used by Safe Routes to School advocates and parents to refocus the discussion:
When making the case for Safe Routes to School, it can help to have access to good information and statistics. The documents below include information on school bus expenditures, cuts in school transportation, and the impact of those cuts on safety, health, and the environment.
- National Statistics on School Transportation
- State by State Comparisons of School Bus Costs, Policies, and Safe Routes to School Funding
- Example of State Funding Mechanisms: Illinois
- Example of Local School Transportation Funding: Shawnee Mission, KS
Special thanks go to the members of the Safe Routes Partnership Working Group on School Bus Service Cuts:
- Brooke Driesse, Safe Routes Partnership (San Diego, CA)
- Brian Fellows, Arizona Department of Transportation (Phoenix, AZ)
- Karen Hartke, WalkBoston (Boston, MA)
- Lee Kokinakis, Michigan Fitness Foundation (Lansing, MI)
- Noreen McDonald, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)
- Leslie Meehan, Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (Nashville, TN)
- Margo Pedroso, Safe Routes Partnership (Washington, DC)
- Dan Persky, Active Transportation Alliance (Chicago, IL)
- Steve Petrehn, Bridging the Gap (Kansas City, MO)
- Shane Rhodes, Eugene School District 4J (Eugene, OR)
- Stephanie Weber, Safe Routes Partnership (Williamsburg, VA)
- John Sweeney, Louise Archer Elementary School (Vienna, VA)
Walking and Bicycling to School and the Heavy Backpack PDF
Compiled by Safe Routes Partnership
Safe Routes to School: A Great Way to Get Youth with and without Disabilities More Active
From the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability
10 Tips for Safe Routes to School Programs and Liability
From the National Center for Safe Routes to School