Success Story Topics:
2011 Stories: State Network Project
Safe Routes to School Program
Hawaii: Hawaii was ranked last among all 50 states for the percentage of federal Safe Routes to School funds awarded to local applicants; only 8 percent of the total $7,188,946 was made available by the Hawaii DOT over the last six years. Two statewide requests for proposals were issued between 2007 and 2009, but as of April 2011, only five local non-infrastructure projects had been awarded. In April 2011, the Hawaii network worked with Senator Daniel Akaka’s office to craft a letter signed by all members of the Hawaii congressional delegation, which was delivered to Governor Neil Abercrombie on May 10, 2011, asking him to take urgent action to spend these valuable federal funds to improve the health and safety of children. The Hawaii network also got a similar letter signed by all four Hawaii mayors representing the four island counties (Hawaii, Honolulu, Kauai and Maui). At a subsequent meeting on May 12, 2011 organized by the Hawaii network, the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) announced that it would award contracts for nine infrastructure projects to improve street-scale safety for children walking and bicycling, hire a full-time state Safe Routes to School coordinator and release a call for applications in 2011 for the remaining $5.6 million in Safe Routes to School funds. Local contracts for the nine Safe Routes to School infrastructure projects were reviewed in summer 2011 by the attorney general’s office and the HDOT contracts office, and these projects should soon advance to the construction phase.
The Hawaii network was also asked by the Governor’s Highway Safety Council to become the Safe Routes to School Statewide Advisory Committee to help provide third party review of Safe Routes to School projects.
Maryland: In order to better support the processing of infrastructure project applications through the state Safe Routes to School program, the Maryland network successfully pushed for and continues to support better coordination between the Maryland Highway Safety Office and the Office of Highway Development, and wrote to the State Highway Administration expressing support for this collaboration and the intent to monitor its implementation. The Maryland network also advocated that the Safety Office focus the Safe Routes to School program on lower-income communities and engage groups working with those communities to provide financial support and technical assistance. In September 2010, the state Safe Routes to School program hosted a pre-application workshop. The network was instrumental in providing outreach and promotion for the workshop and subsequently every county in Maryland sent a representative to participate. The network presented at the seminar and created an e-mail listserv for Safe Routes to School grant recipients to communicate with each other about challenges, best practices and upcoming events. The impact of these efforts became clear with an award of nearly $3.5 million in Safe Routes to School funding in spring 2011, when two of the state's largest jurisdictions received major grants for infrastructure improvements that will benefit schools serving mostly lower-income students.
Minnesota: In 2010 the Minnesota network worked closely with the transportation coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Health to review state policies impacting Safe Routes to School. The coordinator is funded through the CDC and the coordinator’s scope of work specifically focuses on a long-term policy strategy to make Safe Routes to School funding and programming more sustainable and less reliant upon federal dollars. Since Minnesota’s obligation of Safe Routes to School funds was only at 41 percent as of fall 2010, the Minnesota network identified the timely and effective obligation of Safe Routes to School funds as a state strategy to improve getting funding to local Safe Routes to School programs. The network was invited to meet with the Minnesota DOT commissioner in early January 2011. During this meeting the commissioner agreed to review the Safe Routes to School program process and structure to get more projects constructed quickly. The Minnesota network was asked to provide strategic planning recommendations for improvement of the state’s Safe Routes to School funding program.
During Minnesota’s spring 2011 Safe Routes to School funding application cycle, the Minnesota network conducted statewide outreach and consulted and advised five communities and one regional development commission regarding the application process. By June 2011, the state reported receiving more than 80 funding applications.
In June 2011, the Minnesota network was asked to partner with the Minnesota Elementary School Principals Association during their upcoming February 2012 conference with the theme of health and its connection to improved academic achievement. The network will provide expertise on Safe Routes to School and will identify opportunities and resources for school principals.
Pennsylvania: In early 2011, the Pennsylvania network calculated that it would take until 2018 for all of the state’s current Safe Routes to School funding to get into the hands of local communities at the slow rate that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) was proceeding with grant awards and obligation. The Pennsylvania network also learned that the state Safe Routes to School coordinator was only working on an interim basis, had been working only part-time for nearly a year and also served as the interim coordinator for the larger Transportation Enhancements program. Yet according to the federal law authorizing the Safe Routes to School program,“Each State receiving an apportionment under this section for a fiscal year shall use a sufficient amount of the apportionment to fund a full-time position of coordinator of the State's safe routes to school program.” (emphasis added)
Armed with this knowledge, the Pennsylvania network began a campaign to speed up the funding processes and to make the coordinator a full-time position. Prior to a scheduled February 2011 meeting, a letter was sent by the Pennsylvania network to the PennDOT deputy director citing the federal law that requires a full-time state Safe Routes to School coordinator. At the February meeting the deputy director committed to making that happen. The Pennsylvania network met with the PennDOT director in August 2011 to follow up on its previous commitments. The Safe Routes to School coordinator is now full time. The network anticipates that a non-infrastructure call for applications will take place in fall 2011, and a call for infrastructure applications will take place in spring 2012.
The Pennsylvania network also reached out to members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly during the annual Pennsylvania Walks and Bikes conference on May 5, 2011, and educated the leadership about the delayed status of Safe Routes to School funding in Pennsylvania and the importance of this critical program. Outreach to the Pedestrian and Pedalcycle Advisory Committee, the official state advisory committee on bike and pedestrian issues, resulted in a resolution passed by the committee on June 2, 2011, requesting that PennDOT prioritize the obligation of existing Safe Routes to School projects and offer another application cycle to local communities.
Illinois: In 2007, just prior to the formation of the Illinois network, soon-to-be network partners led the way on a successful complete streets bill (S.B. 314), and negotiated wording that requires that bicycle and pedestrian ways will be established as part of all major Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) road construction projects within one mile of an urban area. The law went into effect immediately for project planning and was required for all applicable construction beginning July 1, 2008. Following its enactment, the Illinois network and the two lead co-sponsors, Representative Elaine Nekritz and Senator Edward Maloney, sent a letter to IDOT Secretary Milton Sees requesting expeditious creation of a complete streets implementation plan. IDOT’s draft complete streets policy was first released in 2009; the draft contained IDOT’s first-ever Bikeways Table, which includes a list of appropriate types of bicycle facilities that can be installed in Illinois, but did not address important issues such as the local community’s cost share. In 2010 the Illinois network met with IDOT officials three times and provided comments on the policy. IDOT then released a second draft of its design manual that now included new ratios for cost sharing and bikeway improvements. Prior to the network’s guidance on the design manual, IDOT only allowed for paved shoulders on roads to accommodate bikes. Now there are also warrants for installing bicycle lanes and side paths. IDOT also agreed to increase its sidewalk funding formula from 50/50 to 80/20 – local communities now only pay 20 percent of the cost of sidewalk installation. The Illinois network continues to monitor implementation of the IDOT complete streets policy.
Florida: Florida Statute 335.065 states that, “…bicycle and pedestrian ways shall be given full consideration in the planning and development of transportation facilities, including the incorporation of such ways into state, regional and local transportation plans and programs…”
In order to facilitate implementation of this law, the Florida network worked with Florida’s Regional Planning Councils, with the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council taking the lead, to incorporate policies that support street scale improvements around schools. The Florida network’s complete streets action team convened in December 2010, and met with representatives from the Florida Regional Planning Councils on January 10, 2011, to promote the inclusion of street-scale improvements and Safe Routes to School policies into the Strategic Regional Policy Plans.
The Florida network also identified Florida’s Metropolitan Planning Councils as another powerful governmental entity that can implement the statute, and began working with the Florida Metropolitan Planning Organization Advisory Council in 2010. The Council’s Governing Board approved a resolution in July 2010 that “supports the due consideration of bicycle and pedestrian accommodation on all transportation projects built or maintained in the State of Florida.”
The Florida Metropolitan Planning Organization Advisory Council invited the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, representing the Florida network, to present on Safe Routes to School and complete streets at their meeting on July 28, 2011.
Louisiana: The Louisiana network participated in a legislatively mandated (S.C.R.110) workgroup resulting in the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) adopting, in June 2010, a statewide complete streets policy. The purpose of the workgroup was “to develop a complete streets policy on the design and construction of thoroughfares that maximize use by all Louisianans whether they choose to bike, walk, ride transit, or drive a car, to identify implementation strategies both internal to DOTD and external, and to build on the on-going efforts of the Department of Transportation to create a complete and multi-modal transportation system for the State of Louisiana.”
After meeting four times, the workgroup presented their draft findings to the Secretary of Transportation for his consideration and presentation to legislative committees. According to a statement by the Louisiana chapter of the American Planning Association, “The Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan was able to identify shortcomings in existing practices and bring these concepts in Louisiana to the forefront. The complete streets workgroup quickly moved this effective plan through the…process, and will now institutionalize a multi-model aspect to all state transportation projects.” The DOTD-adopted complete streets policy aims to "create a comprehensive, integrated, connected transportation network for Louisiana that balances access, mobility, health and safety needs of motorists, transit users, bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities, which includes users of wheelchairs and mobility aids." All projects using state or federal funding will be subject to the policy, with five defined exceptions. The policy has been ranked the second best of its kind in the nation by the National Complete Streets Coalition.
Michigan: In January 2010, there was only one complete streets ordinance and three resolutions that had been adopted by communities in the state. Beginning in February 2010, the Michigan network became a prominent part of an active coalition of organizations successful in significantly increasing the number of complete streets ordinances around the state. By April 13, 2011, 32 communities in Michigan had adopted an ordinance or a resolution, and as of May 15, 2011, there were 39 complete streets ordinances and resolutions, which will result in many more street-scale improvements within communities. This gives Michigan one of the highest numbers of local complete streets policies in the nation.
In August 2010, Governor Jennifer Granholm signed Public Act 135, which amends Public Act 51 of 1951 governing the expenditure of state transportation funding, and Public Act 134, which amends the Michigan Planning Enabling Act, making Michigan the 14th state to pass complete streets legislation. In a letter to department staff the Michigan DOT director wrote that, “The transportation world is changing. We can face this change fearfully, or with confidence. In my five years as director, we have faced many challenges, adapted to change and are a better organization for doing so. I am confident we can rise to the challenge of implementing the new complete streets law – in letter and spirit – and emerge a stronger organization and ultimately, a better state.”
Mississippi: In 2010, the Mississippi network created a complete streets fact sheet and distributed it to municipalities and advocates throughout the state. This effort was accompanied by extensive outreach to build support for complete streets street-scale improvements. Since then, the cities of Oxford, Hernando, Columbus, Pascagoula and Tupelo all passed complete streets ordinances. The Mississippi Transportation Commission, following the lead of these cities, unanimously passed a resolution in April 2011 that requires the Mississippi DOT to create a policy to "consider the development of multipurpose trails and/or wide-paved shoulders during the planning phases of all new highways and the re-construction of existing highways in or near communities with areas of high demand for recreational facilities." This resolution will help move Mississippi toward a more integrated bicycling and walking network and, in turn, allow more children to walk and bicycle to school and in their daily lives. Dick Hall, Central Mississippi Transportation Commission chairman and Mississippi network partner, stated in a press release, "…our staff will now be required to evaluate the possibility of incorporating construction of either a multi-purpose trail or dedicated pathway adjacent to new road construction or reconstruction of existing highways. This is a big step for cyclists, runners and walkers in Mississippi. Currently our state is not as well equipped as some others in catering to the needs of pedestrian and cycling transportation – with this resolution future generations of Mississippians will benefit from the policy we put in place, and I’m proud to take part in establishing this initiative.” The Mississippi network will continue to ensure the implementation of the resolution.
Tennessee: The Tennessee network’s complete streets action team developed a presentation about the important connection between Safe Routes to School and complete streets policies. In the summer of 2010, the Tennessee network launched a series of hour-long “lunch and learn“ workshop sessions to educate policymakers and other leaders throughout the state on the benefits of complete streets policies at local, regional and state levels. They are now looking into using this model for educating decision-makers on other Safe Routes to School-related topic areas. Currently in Tennessee, the following cities and regions have complete streets policies, most of which were created since the Tennessee network began its efforts in January 2010:
- Tennessee Department of Transportation
- Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization
- City of Knoxville
- Chattanooga-Hamilton County Transportation Planning Organization
- City of Hendersonville
- Sumner County
- City of Nashville
- Nashville Metropolitan Planning Organization
Georgia: In fall 2009 the Georgia network received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Helping Johnny Walk to School Project to examine policies and practices in Georgia that are barriers to community-centered schools, and make recommendations for change. The resulting Georgia School Siting White Paper was finalized in March 2011, and the Georgia network subsequently met with the state Department of Education to discuss the report’s findings. At around the same time, the Atlanta Regional Commission began planning an Atlanta-area regional workshop on school siting issues. The Georgia network saw an opportunity to bridge the two independent projects and the two agencies partnered with the Georgia network on a statewide workshop on October 14, 2011. Building Schools, Building Communities – A School Siting Symposium brought together decision-makers, leaders and planners from local school districts, advocacy groups, and state and local of government for a symposium on the factors that influence school siting decisions in Georgia. The workshop explored alternatives for enhancing collaboration around school siting through policies and actions on the local, regional and state level, facilitated discussion about how schools and communities can work together to “create thriving, vibrant places to live in the Atlanta region and throughout the state,” and explored strategies and best practices including multi-modal access, environmental protection, high-performance buildings, schools as community centers, and co-location and shared-use. The Georgia Department of Education’s Facilities Services staff expressed an interest in including the Georgia network’s recommendations in its state guidelines for school construction.
Kentucky: The Kentucky network is working to promote shared-use policies and agreements that allow schools and communities to partner together to share recreational facilities, with a special focus on how shared-use agreements benefit urban and rural areas, especially for lower-income communities that may not have adequate recreational facilities. In 2009, the Kentucky network jump-started the issue by developing a fact sheet called Joint-use Policies in Kentucky, which it distributed statewide through various e-mail listservs and other channels. In March 2010, the Kentucky network continued to conduct outreach and educate policymakers by hosting a statewide webinar on shared-use agreements. In addition, the Kentucky network spoke on shared-use agreements to nearly a hundred participants at the Kentucky Coordinated School Health Institute in July 2010.
Kentucky network partners, including Kentucky Youth Advocates, the Kentucky Cancer Consortium and the Kentucky chapter of the American Heart Association collaborated in September 2010 to win a five-year, $175,000 grant to build on the shared-use policy efforts of the Kentucky network. A significant portion of this grant will fund a statewide baseline assessment of shared-use agreements across Kentucky. The partners will then gather input on shared-use policy barriers and opportunities and provide technical assistance to support schools in developing their own agreements. Finally, the Kentucky network will develop a set of recommendations on how policymakers can encourage and fully take advantage of shared-use of schools and community facilities.
Maryland: With passage of the 1997 Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation Act, Maryland began to direct more of its school construction funding to the rehabilitation or replacement of existing schools to ensure that facilities in older neighborhoods were of equal quality to new schools in new neighborhoods. But unlike roads and other growth-related infrastructure, which can only be built inside existing developments in Maryland to discourage sprawl, schools didn't have to be built within existing communities in order to secure state funding. The Maryland network developed a multi-pronged strategy in September 2010 to address this issue, which began with a presentation to state and county facility planners. The presentation focused on supporting children walking and bicycling to school, and the importance of ensuring that school district facility planners and transportation offices coordinate plans for school facilities. The Maryland network also began working closely with partners who are members of the state's Interagency Committee on Public School Construction, including the committee’s executive director and key leadership staff of the affiliated Maryland Department of Planning and State Department of Education. The Maryland network helped identify ways to improve school siting by providing input on metrics used in evaluating school construction and renovation sites and by encouraging information-sharing about the transportation network surrounding potential school sites (including how students are expected to get to school and the estimated school bus transportation costs for all projects — new schools and renovations—seeking state capital funds). The network also engaged key state agency staff to help research how school siting decisions could increase physical activity and promote active living.
On July 6, 2011, the Maryland Board of Public Works voted to launch a 30-day review of proposed school siting regulations that require new and replacement schools to meet the same smart growth criteria as other state-funded infrastructure, closing the school location loophole from the 1997 Smart Growth Act. The new rules would prohibit approval of school sites and state funding for school construction outside designated “Primary Funding Areas,” which are a type of urban growth boundary, unless the project qualifies for a waiver. 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 of where students live. A final decision on the new regulations is expected in October 2011.
Montana: School siting has been a priority of the Montana network since its inception in January 2010. The network worked diligently to bring the best national practices and policies to Montana in an effort to modify the state’s current policies; the Montana state network organizer is a Billings, Mont., school board member who has been a strong advocate for school-based health initiatives. Montana faces the issue of school closure and consolidation, which negatively affects the ability of children to walk or bicycle to school, since school closures result in increasing the distance that many students must travel to school. A Montana network action team was established and worked with a university researcher, the Montana School Boards Association and the School Administrators of Montana to create and distribute a statewide survey about school facilities planning, in order to assess current practices in school siting. The Montana network orchestrated meetings with key organizations to garner feedback on a model school siting policy and to help school districts make the connection between school location, education, health, transportation and the environment. The network also worked with the Montana Department of Commerce, local city planning departments, health departments, housing and urban development agencies and local school districts to establish a model school/city collaborative school siting planning process in order to maximize school district resources and improve outcomes for education, health, transportation and the environment.
California: Early in 2010, the California network worked with Active Living Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the California Department of Health to provide requested information to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office about how lower-income communities should be better served through the state Safe Routes to School program. In February 2010, as part of his childhood obesity initiative, the governor issued a directive to the health and transportation departments to produce a report on how they would address the challenge of equal funding distribution. The director of the Safe Routes Partnership, who serves as chair of the California network, was invited to attend a press event in Los Angeles in February 2010 with Governor Schwarzenegger and former President Bill Clinton, where the governor spoke about reversing childhood obesity and outlined policy actions to support this effort, including Safe Routes to School. The California network monitored the progress of the equity report and encouraged its timely release. The report was released on November 30, 2010, and shows that the percentage of lower-income schools being funded is in fact higher than the percentage of schools being funded overall. Even with that positive result, the report pledged the state’s support to continue to increase the percentage, and to provide more technical assistance to lower-income schools and communities. The California network has since been working with the California Department of Public Health, which received a grant from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to provide Safe Routes to School technical assistance to communities around the state, with a distinct focus on serving lower-income communities. The California network has also been collaborating with the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network and PolicyLink on Safe Routes to School and equity issues.
District of Columbia: In conjunction with the District Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program, the District of Columbia (D.C.) network prepared a Safe Routes to School frequently-asked-questions document for distribution in early 2010 to the school principals in all of DC’s lower-income communities, which make up a majority of D.C.’s total population. The D.C. network also met with the Department of Education chancellor’s office to garner their support for the Safe Routes to School program, and conducted outreach throughout the district to encourage school officials and parent volunteers to apply for funds. Due in part to this outreach, 13 lower-income schools applied for and received Safe Routes to School funds in 2010.
Louisiana: In the fall of 2009 the Louisiana network conducted a review of the literature on best practices to assist lower-income communities in acquiring project funding. A brief on transportation equity and its application to Safe Routes to School in lower-income communities was prepared by the network and shared with the state program; it identified four key practices to ensure that Louisiana’s lower-income communities could better access Safe Routes to School funding. In order to demonstrate to the state the positive effect of providing technical assistance to underserved communities, especially those in coastal areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, the Louisiana network provided the brief to lower-income communities throughout the state and began providing limited technical assistance to prospective applicants beginning in January 2010. The Louisiana network continues to advocate for changes in the DOT policy.
Missouri: Recognizing the need to ensure that the Safe Routes to School is reaching lower-income communities in Missouri, the state network convened an action team in early 2010. Key partners on the action team included the Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDOT) Safe Routes to School program, The Whole Person (a Kansas-City based disability rights organization), a retired Kansas City School District teacher and the Metro St. Louis Coalition for Equality. In summer 2010 the Missouri network began an intensive research project to identify how Safe Routes to School was benefitting lower-income and minority populations. Members of the lower-income communities’ action team assimilated data related to each of the Safe Routes to School award recipients. Data from this research was analyzed and included in a report released to the public in November 2010. Initial findings indicated that schools in lower-income communities in Missouri were not applying for and receiving Safe Routes to School funding at the same levels as moderate- to high-income schools.
The Missouri network, armed with this new data, met with local leaders to determine the barriers to applying for funding in Missouri’s lower-income communities. The network began working with MoDOT to develop a plan for improving outreach and funding to lower-income communities and presented the data and a list of policy recommendations to the state Safe Routes to School program and other decision-makers. In July 2011, MoDOT awarded $3.4 million to 16 new infrastructure applicants in telling fashion: The awards for schools in lower-income communities increased more than five-fold in the July 2011 grant awards, while grant awards for schools with a greater-than-average percentage of students of color more than doubled in the same period. The Missouri network continues to work with MoDOT to further improve the distribution of funds to lower-income communities, including non-infrastructure funding.
Virginia: In 2010, the Virginia network determined that lower-income communities needed financial assistance in planning and launching Safe Routes to School programs. Under the leadership of Prevention Connections—the nonprofit division of the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth—the Virginia network successfully leveraged $150,000 in stimulus funding from the CDC through the Virginia Department of Health, in the form of $2,000 mini-grants for up to 75 Title 1 (lower-income) schools throughout the state. Prevention Connections was contracted to establish a Safe Routes to School grant process and is administering the mini-grants, which are designed to provide seed money for schools to plan and implement a walk- or bike-to-school event, walking school bus program, or educational program as an initial step toward developing a comprehensive program that will promote physical activity and prevent obesity. As of mid-June 2011, more than 50 awards had been distributed to schools in lower-income communities throughout the state. The 2011 mini-grant application cycle closed on September 30, 2011. Several of the schools had already sought additional funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation program to establish a comprehensive Safe Routes to School program during the state’s call for applications in spring 2011; award notifications are anticipated in fall 2011.
District of Columbia: The District of Columbia (DC) instituted a Safe Passages program at area high schools. The program consists of assigning additional police officers stationed on selected corners in patrol cars during high school dismissal time to foster confidence among students walking and bicycling from school and to deter crime and bullying. In October 2010, the DC network began working with the DC Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Police Department to expand the program by adopting a model developed by the Illinois Safe Routes to School. In the new model, police officers will reach out to residents within an eight-block radius around schools in neighborhoods with high crime rates. Residents will volunteer to be either “eyes on the street,” corner captains at arrival and dismissal times, or school volunteers, tutors, or mentors. A 2010 survey of DC residents identified as many as 4,000 people who wanted to be a corner or yard captain. Police trainees, community volunteers and beat patrol officers will conduct door-to-door canvassing to recruit corner and yard captain volunteers and the DC network will provide door hangers to reach residents who are not home during the canvassing.
Kentucky: In summer 2010, the Kentucky network hosted a statewide webinar on the status of various issues of personal safety impacting children. The webinar was focused on exploring three main topics: public awareness of personal safety issues for children such as “stranger danger;” policies and programs that can increase personal safety such as Safe Routes to School and “walking school buses;” and other community responses to improving personal safety such as reducing traffic speeds near schools. On the morning of the personal safety webinar the Kentucky network organizer appeared on ABC36’s Good Morning Kentucky to discuss personal safety issues for children walking and biking to school and solutions such as Safe Routes to School.
Oklahoma: The Oklahoma School Safety Patrol program trains student leaders to help younger students safely negotiate intersections and street crossings near schools. The Oklahoma network partnered with the state Departments of Transportation and Health and AAA of Oklahoma to obtain funding from the CDC to expand the AAA School Safety Patrol Program from 220 schools to approximately 270 schools, and to maintain those programs for at least two additional years after initiation. By negotiating better purchase agreements, the Oklahoma network helped 15 more schools than originally planned to receive Student Safety Patrol equipment. The Student Safety Patrol program will be offered first to those schools that received Safe Routes to School awards from the first grant cycle; second choice will go to schools that received grants in the second cycle. Any remaining program materials will be offered to schools statewide on a first-come, first-served basis.
Virginia: Crossing guards can play an important role in increasing safety and encouraging children to walk to school, but many are volunteers with minimal training. As a result, the Virginia network worked to improve the skills and knowledge of crossing guards. Virginia network partners assessed existing crossing guard training programs. The Virginia network then developed a standardized training curriculum, which was submitted to the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services for certification. The project was completed in early 2011; crossing guards are now able to receive this required high-quality training, and to be certified with respect to protecting the safety of children walking and bicycling to and from school.
Other Policy Successes:
California: The federal transportation law (SAFETEA-LU), which was enacted in August 2005, established the Highway Safety Improvement Program as a core federal-aid program. Its purpose is to achieve a significant reduction in traffic fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads through infrastructure-related highway safety improvements. Since the amount of money in this federal funding category is 10 times the amount of available in state Safe Routes to School funds, the California network worked with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the University of California, Berkeley to develop a safety index which measures walking and bicycling crash risks, to build the case that more money should be made available for safety improvements that support physical activity. When Caltrans called for applications for safety funding projects, due December 7, 2010, the California network notified its partner list of more than 600 organizations and individuals and encouraged Californians to submit applications for bicycle, pedestrian and Safe Routes to School projects such as sidewalks, pathways, and street crossings. On February 23, 2011, Caltrans released the list of 179 projects approved for nearly $75 million in federal funds; 39 percent of the projects included bicycle and pedestrian street-scale infrastructure improvements.
Colorado - Legislation Implementation: Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Education:: The Safer Streets for Children bill (H.B.1147) was signed into law on June 10, 2010, “requiring the department of transportation, in collaboration with the departments of education and public safety and appropriate nonprofit organizations and advocacy groups, to notify schools of the availability of and make available to schools existing educational curriculum for minors regarding the safe use of public streets and premises open to the public.” According to Bicycle Colorado’s website, “The goal of the bill is to reduce injuries to children and reduce costs to families, the state and our health care system. Through road safety training in schools and adding the state's bicycle and pedestrian policy into statue, the state also will benefit by increasing physical activity which reduces obesity related diseases. In today's economic climate, more Colorado adults and their children are turning to walking and bicycling as low-cost, healthy ways to get around.” The sponsor of H.B. 1147, Representative John Kefalas, invited the Colorado network to help ensure effective implementation. The Colorado network then began collaborating with the Colorado Departments of Transportation and Education to develop a strong bicycle and pedestrian curriculum for schools.
D.C. - Public Schools School Wellness Policy: The D.C. network is a member of the D.C. Public Schools Local Wellness Policy Advisory Committee working on a 2011 update for the D.C. Wellness Policy, as required by the federal Healthy Schools Act. The D.C. network is the only member of the committee promoting physical activity. While still in draft form, the Wellness Policy revision is now expected to include Safe Routes to School in both the “Out of School Time” and “Physical Activity” sections.
Illinois - School Bus Funding:: In many communities across Illinois, children are bused short distances to school—even just across the street—because of traffic safety hazards, costing the state an average of $70 million per year. Starting in the winter of 2008, the Illinois network began educating state-level decision-makers about the prevalence and financial costs of hazard busing. In May 2009, state legislators passed House Joint Resolution 6 to require the creation of a School Transportation Task Force to examine multi-modal school transportation plans and to study potential legislative changes. In January 2010, Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn appointed the Illinois state network organizer to join the School Transportation Task Force. The task force held its first meeting in May 2010. The task force looked at ways to use hazardous route busing funds to instead mitigate hazards, increase the rate of walking and bicycling to school and save money on school transportation costs.
Oklahoma - Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Education Curriculum: Oklahoma’s Safe Routes to School program is funding improvements to the built environment statewide. To ensure that children safely and responsibly walk or bicycle to school, the Oklahoma network convened an action team to research established curricula around the country and found a model right next door: the SafeCyclist curriculum (formerly Texas SuperCyclist), developed in 1996 by the Texas Bicycle Coalition and used extensively throughout Texas, is a comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian safety education curriculum designed for fourth and fifth grade students. The Oklahoma network adapted this curriculum and made it more applicable to the needs and goals of Oklahoma students and schools. Beginning in the fall of 2010, the Oklahoma network secured part of a $47,000 grant from the CDC through the Oklahoma State Department of Health to make the curriculum available to Oklahoma schools for grades 3-5. In addition, the Oklahoma network worked to get the WalkSmart/BikeSmart Vermont! curriculum for grades K-2 adapted for use within the state of Oklahoma; it is now available for free download on the Oklahoma State Departments of Health, Education and Transportation websites. In addition, teacher certification training sessions around the state, paid for by Safe Routes to School and eligible for professional development credits by the Oklahoma Department of Education, are enabling up to 200 teachers to take the SafeCyclist curriculum program back to their schools; 22 teachers completed the training in 2010.
2010 Stories: State Network Project
State Safe Routes to School Program and Application Guidelines
Maryland: In order to better support the processing of infrastructure project applications through the Department of Transportation’s state Safe Routes to School program, the Maryland network successfully pushed for and has supported ongoing collaboration between the Highway Safety Office and the Office of Highway Development. The Maryland network also created a listserv to allow for communication between Safe Routes to School grant recipients about the challenges they encounter, best practices, and upcoming trainings and promotional events. In September 2010, a pre-application training workshop was hosted by the state Safe Routes to School program; the Maryland network was instrumental in outreach and promotion throughout the state, and subsequently nearly every county in Maryland had a representative at the workshop.
Hawaii: Governor Linda Lingle signed S.B. 718 on May 6, 2009, a landmark bill that requires the Hawaii Department of Transportation and all of the counties to establish policies to accommodate all users of the road, no matter what age, ability, or mode of transportation. The bill thus became Act 054, the Complete Streets law, which calls for the creation of a statewide task force to review existing state and county highway design standards and guidelines and propose changes to procedures and design manuals. Two Hawaii network partners were appointed to the 20- member task force, and three other Hawaii network partners are "Friends" of the task force. In 2010 the task force began working on specific design standards and guidelines as part of the task force’s work plan.
Colorado: The Colorado network was invited by State Representative John Kefalas to work on implementing new legislation, HB1147, which he authored, requiring that bicycle and pedestrian education be taught in schools across the state. The Colorado network began collaborating with the Colorado Departments of Transportation and Education to ensure that a strong curriculum is created, offered to, and used by schools. According to network partner Bicycle Colorado, the goal of the bill is “to reduce injuries to children and reduce costs to families, the state, and our health care system…the state will also benefit by increasing physical activity which reduces obesity related diseases. In today's economic climate, more Colorado adults and their children are turning to walking and bicycling as low-cost, healthy ways to get around.”
District of Columbia: The District of Columbia (DC), in order to increase safety while walking or bicycling on city streets, instituted a Safe Passages program at area high schools. Currently the program consists of assigning additional police officers stationed on selected corners in patrol cars during high school dismissal time in order to deter crime and bullying and foster confidence among students walking and bicycling to and from school. The DC network is working with the DC Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Police Department to expand the program by adopting a model developed by Illinois SRTS state network partners, and in October 2010 identified a DC pilot school. In the new model, schools will be selected in DC neighborhoods with high crime rates, and police officers will reach out to residents within an eight-block radius around the school. Residents will volunteer to be either eyes on the street, corner captains at arrival and dismissal times, or school volunteers/tutors/mentors. Police trainees, community volunteers and beat patrol officers will conduct door-to-door canvassing, and DC network partners will provide door hangers to reach residents who are not home during the canvassing.
School Bus Funding and Cuts
Illinois: Illinois House Joint Resolution 6 required the creation of a School Transportation task force to examine multi-modal school transportation plans and to study potential legislative changes. In January 2010, Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn appointed the Illinois state network to the School Transportation task force. The task force held its first meeting in May 2010. The task force is looking at ways to use hazardous route busing funds to mitigate hazards through bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, increase the rate of walking and bicycling to school in Illinois, and to save the state money on long term school transportation costs. The task force submitted recommendations on June 30, 2010 and is waiting for next steps from the Governor's Office. The Illinois network hopes that the task force recommendations will lead to policy changes that save money and increase physical activity and safety through walking and bicycling infrastructure near schools.
School Siting and Shared Use
Virginia – School Siting: 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 of the Public School Facility Guidelines was missing the new school siting language. The Virginia network quickly responded, requesting that the language be reinserted, which prompted the administration to move to approve and post the revised guidelines for public consumption. The new language was approved and the Public School Facility Guidelines school siting language now includes this passage:
Where possible, locate new schools in attendance areas that will promote students to walk or ride bicycles safely to school. When developing a new school site or altering an existing site the design should include features that encourage pedestrian or bicycle access to and from the school site.
Kentucky – Shared-Use: In order to increase opportunities for physical activity, the Kentucky network is working to promote shared use policies and agreements that allow schools and communities to partner together to share recreational facilities, with a special focus on how shared-use agreements benefit urban and rural areas, especially for lower-income communities that may not have adequate recreational facilities. In 2009, the Kentucky network developed a fact sheet on shared use policies in Kentucky, which it distributed statewide. In March 2010, the Kentucky network hosted a statewide webinar on shared-use agreements, and in July 2010, the Kentucky network spoke on shared-use agreements to nearly a hundred participants at the Kentucky Coordinated School Health Institute.
In September 2010, the Kentucky Cancer Consortium led a collaborative effort with the Kentucky network in winning a $175,000 grant, with shared-use agreements as an emphasis area building on the previous efforts of the Kentucky state network, to fund a baseline assessment of shared-use agreements across the state. The Kentucky network and Kentucky Cancer Consortium will gather input on shared-use policy barriers and opportunities and provide technical assistance to support schools in developing their own agreements. Finally, the Kentucky network will develop a set of recommendations on how policymakers can encourage and fully exploit shared-use of schools and community facilities across the state of Kentucky.
Serving Lower-Income Communities
Virginia – Funding Assistance: In 2010 the Virginia Safe Routes to School state network successfully leveraged $150,000 of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Virginia Department of Health for mini-grants for up to 75 Title 1, or low-income, schools throughout the state. The mini-grants are designed to provide seed money for schools to coordinate a walk or bike to school event as an initial step toward developing a comprehensive Safe Routes to School program.
Wisconsin – Social Equity: The Wisconsin Safe Routes to School state network has taken several steps to assist low-income school communities in the state. The Wisconsin network joined the state Safe Routes to School advisory committee starting in early 2010. The Wisconsin network then worked with the state Safe Routes to School program to plan a series of four training sessions focused on two funding programs for walking and bicycling - Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School - that have since awarded over $36 million dollars in funds to Wisconsin communities in 2010, with $1,846,882 going to low-income communities, including $64,930 in planning grants. More than 100 advocates attended the sessions, located in regions across the state. The goal of these sessions was to create demand for both programs, encourage high quality projects, and to ensure that communities across the state apply for state Safe Routes to School funds, especially low-income communities. The Wisconsin Network convinced the Department of Transportation to select Milwaukee as one of the sites, in order to ensure that the largest low-income population in the state was being served. More than 27% of Milwaukie residents live below the poverty line, and the Milwaukie region contains over one-third of the population of the entire state.
Recognizing that a call for applications was likely in late 2010, the Wisconsin network convened an action team in mid-2010 to analyze the Wisconsin Safe Routes to School program application process and its accessibility to low-income communities. The state Safe Routes to School program is indeed serving a diverse range of communities through strong state network-assisted outreach efforts, giving extra points in grant scoring to low-income community applications, and making planning grants available to local advocates and schools in low-income communities. The network is working with the State DOT to ensure that this practice continues and grows.
Strategic Highway Safety Plans
California – Fair Share for Safety: The California Safe Routes to School state network is working to ensure that 20% of Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funds are allocated to bicycle and pedestrian needs, as these modes represent 20 percent of traffic fatalities in California. In 2007, the California network distributed a “fair share for safety” white paper to campaign for more funding, and was able to get several network partners placed on committees to develop the Strategic Highway Safety Plan’s major challenge areas, to develop strategies to save lives. The California network succeeded in getting Safe Routes to School listed as the number one priority for the walking challenge area. In 2009, Caltrans, the state department of transportation, revealed that 27% of Local Assistance HSIP projects included bicycle and pedestrian features, a tangible step towards achieving a fair share for safety. In 2010, the network heard that Caltrans was going to change their structure for decisions on HSIP funding, so in April 2010, the California network reviewed and provided feedback on the new Safety Index Model, to help ensure that pedestrian, bicycle and Safe Routes to School projects would be competitive with road projects through the new modeling. In September 2010, when Caltrans announced a call for applications for $75 million of funding through HSIP, the network conducted outreach to encourage local agencies and advocates of the ability to apply for HSIP funding for Safe Routes to School projects. The funded project list included many new crosswalks, sidewalks, pedestrian-activated walk signals with countdown timers, speed feedback signs, widened shoulders, bike lanes and other projects that will improve non-motorized safety. During 2010, California network partners also participated in a 3-day “train the trainer” session on developing a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan, and served on the planning committee for the Statewide Pedestrian Data and Modeling conference.
Hawaii – Leveraging Partnerships: Hawaii had the fifth highest pedestrian fatality rate and second highest bicyclist fatality rate in the nation between 2001-2005. These rates make the Hawaii Strategic Highway Safety Plan of major importance for increasing safety for non-motorized transportation in the state. The Hawaii Safe Routes to School state network chair, is the chair for Emphasis Area #4: Pedestrian and Bicycling Safety for the Hawaii Strategic Highway Safety Plan. Through this leadership role, the Hawaii network successfully partnered with Federal Highway Administration’s Hawaii Division, the Hawaii Local Technical Assistance Program at the University of Hawaii Manoa School of Engineering, and the Department of Health to attract $5,000 in federal "Accelerating Safety Activities Program" safety funds in 2010 to co-host a Bicycle Facility Design Seminar, attended by state and county engineers and planners, as well as many private planning, environmental and construction firms and community advocates, who noted that the training helped them to better understand how to incorporate bicycle facilities into their local roadways designs. In September 2010, the Hawaii network also hosted a three-day first-in-state Pedestrian Safety Action Plan Workshop that produced a draft Pedestrian Safety Action Plan for Hawaii County, including a strong emphasis on the importance of funding and fostering Safe Routes to School programs. These successful Seminars and Workshops for Hawaii's engineers and planners come on the heels of increased federal investment in walking and bicycling; the Hawaii Safe Routes to School state network has calculated that a record breaking $92 million will be invested in bicycle and pedestrian facilities in Hawaii over the next six years from several federal funding sources, including HSIP. In addition, the Hawaii Department of Transportation has funded $125,000 in bicycle and pedestrian projects, focused primarily on bicycle and pedestrian education and motorist awareness.