Safe Routes to School E-News
Issue #52: April 2010
Safe Routes to School E-News is a monthly email newsletter published by the Safe Routes Partnership, www.saferoutespartnership.org, a growing national network of more than 400 non-profit organizations, government agencies, and professional groups that are working to advance the Safe Routes to School national movement.
To receive future issues of E-News, email email@example.com.
In this issue:
1. Attend the Partnership’s Annual Meeting and ProWalk/ProBike
The deadline for early registration is May 31, 2010
2. Secretary LaHood Leads the Way for Bicycling and Walking
Inspires advocates and issues strong new transportation policy on bicycling and walking
3. Safe Routes Partnership’s Federal Update
Transportation, health care, and childhood obesity in the news
4. Safe Routes to School State Network Update
Joint use, school buses, personal safety, and low-income communities
5. Safe Routes to School Regional Network Update
Serving Three Regions in 2010 and 2011
6. New Report on Community-Centered Schools
School siting decisions highlighted
7. National Wildlife Federation Hosts Summit on Children and the Outdoors
Safe Routes Partnership among the presenters
8. 2010: The Year for Tennessee and Safe Routes to School
Multiple initiatives bring visibility to Safe Routes to School
9. Wisconsin Pilots Regional SRTS Program
And New Network Chair is Chief of Staff for the State Senate President
10. SRTS News Throughout the Country
Local and state SRTS program news links
he Safe Routes Partnership is holding its Annual Meeting at the Pro Walk / Pro Bike® Conference on Monday, September 13, 2010 from 1PM - 5PM in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We invite you to join the Partnership staff and Steering Committee in providing feedback on our draft 2011-2015 Strategic Plan. Come learn about our efforts to adopt a Plan that will coincide with new federal transportation legislation aimed at strengthening and expanding the federal Safe Routes to School program over a five to six year time period. This event is free, but advance registration is required as seating is limited. Click here to register.
Registration for the Pro Walk / Pro Bike® Conference is available here; we encourage Safe Routes to School advocates and practitioners to attend. This year’s theme, "Bringing Livable Communities and Regions to Scale", is aimed at highlighting many examples of what can be done in small and mid-size cities and rural regions, like Chattanooga, to develop and sustain livable communities. The conference, hosted by the National Center for Bicycling and Walking, will also showcase bike/ped projects that were built with stimulus money and projects that make it possible for people of all ages and abilities to walk and bike everywhere all the time. The closing plenary will be on Thursday, September 16, from noon until 2:00 PM with special interest meetings later in the day and on Friday, September 17.
Secretary Ray LaHood of the US Department of Transportation gave a rousing speech at the National Bike Summit’s Congressional reception on March 11, 2010. He spoke of the momentum around livable communities and thanked bike advocates for their help in getting people excited about bicycling and walking. He followed up his enthusiastic speech just a few days later by issuing a new "Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation." The policy statement recommends that state DOTs and communities treat bicycling and walking as an equal transportation mode, incorporate bike/ped facilities into transportation projects, set mode share targets for bicycling and walking, collect data on bicycling and walking, and more. In his FastLane blog, the Secretary spoke about how bicycle projects are relatively fast and inexpensive to build-yet they reduce travel costs, improve safety and public health, and are environmentally sustainable.
The Safe Routes Partnership and many people applaud the leadership of the USDOT and Secretary LaHood on bicycling and walking, but unfortunately, the Secretary’s new policy has not been well received by everyone. Some members of Congress have been particularly critical, suggesting that focusing on bicycling and walking will be detrimental to the transportation system. Both the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking and the League of American Bicyclists have updates on negative comments that Members of Congress have made, and suggestions for how advocates can respond. We encourage you to work with your local and state governments to show support for treating bicycling and walking as an equal transportation mode.
Since our last update, Congress has passed the long-term transportation extension through December 2010 -meaning that the federal Safe Routes to School program will be funded at the FY2009 level of $183 million throughout the remainder of FY2010 and the first quarter of FY2011. The Federal Highway Administration should be issuing the memo within a few weeks that gives states their exact apportionments for all transportation programs. Once the memo has been issued, the Partnership will be working with state and local advocates to ensure that state Departments of Transportation make plans to hold new SRTS grant cycles that will put the newly available funds to good use in schools and communities across the country.
Senator Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has also publicly stated that she wants to move forward on the full transportation reauthorization bill this year. The Committee has started holding more hearings, and staff is starting to work on drafting legislation. It is important that advocates continue to contact their Senators to ask for their support of S. 1156, the Safe Routes to School Program Reauthorization Act. Fortunately, we are now up to 22 Senators in support, with Senator Murray (D-WA) the latest addition. In the House, during the National Bike Summit bike advocates were successful in getting 16 new sponsors for H.R. 4021, the Safe Routes to High Schools Act, bringing the total supporters to 39 Representatives.
In other news, Congress recently passed health care overhaul legislation. One of the provisions included in the bill creates "Community Transformation" grants. Funds will be awarded competitively to State and local government agencies or community-based organizations to implement policy, environmental, programmatic and infrastructure changes needed to promote healthy living and reduce health disparities. Several eligible activities focus on enhancing physical activity, including "creating the infrastructure to support active living." This could prove to be a potential future funding opportunity for Safe Routes to School programming, although it could be many months (if not a year) before grant applications are available. The Safe Routes Partnership will monitor the creation of this new program.
Finally, the First Lady and the federal Task Force on Childhood Obesity continue to move forward in their efforts to develop a national action plan on childhood obesity. The Task Force recently asked for public input and suggestions for programs and recommendations they should include in their action plan. The Safe Routes Partnership submitted detailed comments on Safe Routes to School, active transportation networks, and Complete Streets. We also want to thank the nearly 100 Safe Routes to School supporters who also submitted comments to the Task Force. First Lady Michelle Obama also authored an editorial in Newsweek on her childhood obesity focus. She mentions walking to school in the second paragraph. We continue to work with our federal agency partners and the First Lady’s office to raise the profile of Safe Routes to School within this movement.
At a meeting last month before the annual National Bike Summit in Washington DC, we hosted a meeting where many of our state network organizers had the opportunity to discuss current state policy issues. Joint use of city and school facilities, school buses, personal safety, and low income communties were the most popular topics of discussion. Organizers brainstormed about how these four policy topics would be approached by their state networks.
Joint use (or shared use) is the concept of a school sharing its indoor and outdoor space with the community outside of school hours, or a city sharing its parks for school use. For instance, community and school residents can use ball fields and playground equipment, and indoor rooms can be used for community meetings, classes and other non-school activities. Joint-use can save money and help to make the school a central focal point for the community, which was a very common practice in previous decades. Learn more at: www.jointuse.org and www.nplanonline.org.
State policies can help low-income communities get funding, staffing and technical assistance for Safe Routes to School, and partnerships with law enforcement agencies and organizations can lead to improvements in personal safety issues such as street crime, stray dogs, gangs, bullying, and traffic safety issues, which tend to be more acute in low-income communities. Learn more at: http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/lowincome
School districts are struggling to balance budgets and a common target is to eliminate bus routes or bus stops, which can lead to greater traffic congestion, poorer air quality, and increased family expenses due to an increase in parents driving children to school. Effective state policies can have an impact on busing by how they reimburse local school districts for school transportation costs, and can set standards for the types of hazards that are unacceptable for children walking and bicycling. When the hazards are repaired, children who live close to a school can safely walk or bicycle, and the school district can save on school transportation costs. Learn more at: http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/schoolbuscuts
For more information about the State Network Project, go to: http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/network.
In January 2010, The Safe Routes Partnership announced the expansion of State Network Project to include three new regional networks. The State Network Project was created in 2007 with 10 State Networks and expanded in 2010 to include 19 States and the District of Columbia during 2010 and 2011. Over these next two years, we are also working on a new program at the regional level to bring together leaders to remove barriers to walking and bicycling to and from school. From 2010 to 2011, the Regional Network Project will support networks that affect regional decisions in Southern California (Southern California Association of Governments), The Greater Washington DC Area (Metropolitan Washington Council of Government), and in the Atlanta Region (Atlanta Regional Council).
Drawing from the success of our State Network Project, the Regional Networks are working to improve physical activity among students, ensure that federal funds are spent on quality projects, working to leverage additional local, regional and state resources for walking and bicycling initiatives, and advocating to remove barriers to walking and bicycling to schools through several policy initiatives. Regional Networks are also focusing on the 20-year, long range Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), aiming to create dedicated Safe Routes to School funding. Within the RTP is the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP). The TIP is a shorter-term plan, typically spanning three years. Through policy initiatives, the Regional Networks are working to ensure that the federal dollars flowing through the RTP are spent on projects that improve walking and bicycling, increasing physical activity and safety.
We encourage organizations in Southern California, Atlanta and the Washington DC area to get involved with the SRTS Regional Network Project. Each network has a Regional Organizer who conducts monthly meetings that enable participants to learn more about the project and to participate in network policy development activities. To join a call or learn more about the network in your region, please contact Justin Fanslau, Network Manager.
Who Do the Regional Networks Collaborate With?
The Regional Networks were formed in order to foster a greater relationship between bicycle and pedestrian advocates and the government body that distributes federal transportation dollars. Regional Councils of Governments and Metropolitan Planning Organizations are federally mandated organizations that are responsible for distributing this funding and the development of the various plans that direct these funds. Network Organizers will be working closely with these organizations to enhance allocation of transportation funding to remove barriers to walking and bicycling as well as working to improve policies that increase physical activity and health, distribution of resources to low-income areas and a reduction in crime around schools.
To learn more about Regional Council of Governments and Metropolitan Planning Organizations, visit the National Association of Regional Councils.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has released Helping Johnny Walk to School: Policy Recommendations for Removing Barriers to Community-Centered Schools in collaboration with many groups including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the SRTS Safe Routes Partnership, and with generous support from the EPA, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and the Building Educational Success Together collaborative courtesy of the Convergence Partnership. This report identifies the larger community interest in decisions about retaining existing schools and deciding where to locate new ones. It describes the states’ role in school siting decisions and identifies state level policy changes that will ensure that educational, environmental, health, community, and fiscal considerations are weighed by communities when school districts make school closing, consolidation, and site selection decisions.
In May 2008, the National Trust for Historic Preservation launched the Helping Johnny Walk to School: Sustaining Communities Through Smart Policy project to encourage the retention and development of community-centered schools. This project brings together experts from the fields of education, health, transportation and community design, and partners in nine states, including the State Network Project, to find new ways states can encourage community-centered schools.
For more information about the project and community-centered schools, and to download the report go to: http://www.preservationnation.org/issues/historic-schools.
On April 10, 2010, environmental advocates will gather in Houston, Texas for "Be Out There: A National Summit on Children and the Outdoors." The focus of the Be Out There campaign is to reconnect children to the natural world and increase the amount of time children play outdoors.
The Be Out There Summit, which is also being webcast, will advance a federal and state policy agenda focused around connecting children with the outdoors. A number of national and state policymakers will be featured at the summit. Margo Pedroso of the Safe Routes Partnership will speak on a panel entitled "New Partners and Innovative Strategies to Address the Indoor Child." Summit participants will learn more about how Safe Routes to School programs are getting children out of their parents’ cars and onto their feet and bicycles. Walking and bicycling provides an important opportunity for children to get exercise and experience nature and the outdoors. Environmental advocates are looking for partners in their efforts to reconnect children to nature. In addition, children are often motivated by the "green" benefits of walking and bicycling to school. Safe Routes to School programs and practitioners are a natural partner in this effort.
2010 has been a great year already for Tennessee in terms of Safe Routes to School (SRTS) initiatives. Multiple symposia have been held, and key stakeholders around the state are hearing loud and clear that initiatives that support SRTS need to be a priority.
School Siting Symposium: The Nashville Area MPO sponsored the region’s first ever school siting symposium. The symposium brought together well over 100 elected officials, architects, planners, school officials, and community members to discuss issues related to school facilities. Speakers included Dr. David Salvesen of University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Matt Dalbey from the U.S. EPA Smart Growth Program, and Sharon Roerty, Executive Director of the National Center on Bicycling and Walking. Breakout sessions included topics such as: Transportation, Health, Historic Preservation, LEED Certification, Parks, and Intergovernmental Collaboration.
Complete Streets Workshop: For two days, January 28 and 29, 2010, the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and the Transportation Management Association (TMA) Group co-hosted the Nashville Area Complete Streets Symposium and Workshop aimed at helping the region move beyond the usual focus on design specifics, towards an improved understanding of how we might transform decision-making processes so that Complete Streets policies are adopted throughout Middle Tennessee. Speakers included Bike/Ped Planner Michael Ronkin and America Bikes President Randy Neufield. For more information about either the School Siting Symposium or the Complete Streets Workshop, visit www.nashvillempo.org.
Tennessee State Network: The Tennessee State Network, under the leadership of State Network Organizer Drew Jacobs, is hard at work researching policies and practices and developing a strategic action plan to achieve policy change in the state. The Network has identified a number of priority issues and has forged important partnerships with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Office of Coordinated School Health.
The Safe Routes Partnership recently selected Wisconsin to participate in the State Network Project. The Network is pleased to announce that Dianne Cieslewicz, the Chief of Staff for State Senate President Fred Risser will be serving as the chair of the Wisconsin Safe Routes to School Network. The state network is hosted by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin (BFW) with Jessica Wineberg Binder of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin serving as the Wisconsin SRTS Network Organizer. She manages the daily operations of the Network and works with partners from around the state who are involved in areas such as, health, transportation, environment, equality, youth, and smart growth, to develop and implement an action plan. Email Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the Network.
In other news, in the fall of 2009, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation partnered with the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (RPC) to pilot a Regional SRTS program in a ten-county region. Currently, the active SRTS programs in the region include urban, suburban, and rural communities and additional communities and schools continue to show interest in joining in the project.
The mission of the Regional Safe Routes to School program is to empower local SRTS communities with the resources and knowledge to implement their recommendations and increase the walkability and bikeability of their communities. Due to budget constraints, municipalities and school districts are having a difficult time implementing education, encouragement, and evaluation activities. Under the new regional program, RPC staff provide guidance and resources to communities and schools to assist in implementing the program components. They also are just beginning work on a SRTS plan for the entire region that will help direct activities and ensure that non-infrastructure activities can be implemented in an efficient fashion that shares resources and ideas.
The Wisconsin SRTS program will be holding its next call for applications in the summer of 2010. For more information about Wisconsin’s SRTS program, please visit their website or contact Renee Callaway at 608-266-3973 or email@example.com.
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.
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