October 2011

Safe Routes to School E-News

Issue #70: October 2011

Safe Routes to School E-News is a monthly email newsletter published by the Safe Routes Partnership (Safe Routes 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.

The Safe Routes Partnership is on Facebook and Twitter. Join us!

To receive future issues of E-News, email info@saferoutespartnership.org.

In this issue:

1. New Safe Routes to School 2011 Policy Report

2. EPA Releases New Voluntary School Siting Guidelines

3. Walk and Roll to School Day and Beyond

4. National Research Council Urges Health Impact Assessments

5. Safe Routes Partnership’s Federal Update

6. Safe Routes to School State Network Project Update

7. Free Webinar: Nonprofit Advocacy Organizations and Safe Routes to School

8. Kentucky Recently Held Fifth Safe Routes to School Funding Cycle

9. Maine Safe Routes to School Program Has Record Year

10. Safe Routes to School News Throughout the Country

1. New Safe Routes to School 2011 Policy Report
Selling Safe Routes to School in tough economic times

The Safe Routes Partnership is pleased to release a new report, Safe Routes to School: Helping Communities Save Lives and Dollars. We are grateful to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for their support of this publication.

The Safe Routes to School program is constructing sidewalks, crosswalks and pathways that improve safety for children and encourage them to be more physically active in all 50 states. There are long-term financial benefits of these public health and safety improvements, and those benefits are a critical part of making the case for Safe Routes to School in these challenging economic times.

The report shows that Safe Routes to School initiatives can:

  • Reduce school busing costs, alleviating the strain on school and local government budgets;
  • Decrease short trips to school, easing traffic congestion, fuel expenditures and wear and tear on the roads;
  • Help small rural towns and low-income communities access much-needed funds to improve safety; and
  • Lower medical costs from traffic injuries and fatalities and manage obesity costs.

The report shares new data, dollar figures and facts about the wide-ranging benefits of the federal Safe Routes to School program and illustrates them with potent local success stories. For example, Melrose Elementary in Wooster, Ohio installed sidewalks, crosswalks and signage that improved safety for kids who live close to school, resulting in a savings of $49,000/year in busing costs.

We encourage you to read the new report, Safe Routes to School: Helping Communities Save Lives and Dollars, and use it to show policymakers how critical Safe Routes to School investments are to the health, safety and well-being of our children—and the cities and towns in which they live. We have also prepared a new Safe Routes to School fact sheet that includes excerpts from the report and statistics that you can download and use whenever you talk about Safe Routes to School.

2. EPA Releases New Voluntary School Siting Guidelines
Safe Routes Partnership applauds inclusion of strong smart growth and walkability language

This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its long-awaited School Siting Guidelines. The Safe Routes Partnership participated on a Task Force that helped review and shape the guidelines, and we are proud to circulate the final product to the Safe Routes to School community.

These guidelines will be an important resource to communities across the country as they look to renovate or build schools. For the first time, the guidelines clearly lay out how school systems should look at the positive aspects of a school site (such as its proximity to students, walkability, and proximity to parks, libraries and other community assets) as well as environmental hazards. There are a number of sections worth particular attention:

  • The overarching principles for the guidelines—including Principle 3, that schools should be located in environments that contribute to the livability, sustainability and public health of neighborhoods and communities. This section includes strong language about the relationship between walking and bicycling to school, obesity and academic achievement. (p. 7-9)
  • The acknowledgement that school siting decisions must consider diversity (p. 3) and the health and safety impact on disadvantaged and underserved populations. (p. 9-11)
  • The strong focus in section 4.3 on the desirable aspects of a school site—including the benefits of siting a school near the population served, how the school location affects long-term transportation costs, and the need for good walkability and Safe Routes to School plans. (p. 37-46)
  • The recommendation that states conduct a review of their school siting policies to eliminate minimum acreage standards, funding formulas that favor new construction over renovation, and other policies that prevent local communities from selecting school sites within communities. (p. 109-111)

If you are interested in learning more about how smart school siting decisions can help encourage healthy, walkable schools and communities, please register and tune in for a forthcoming webinar series on school siting. The series is hosted by a number of national organizations with an interest in school siting. Remaining sessions include:

  • October 18 – State strategies for school siting: locating schools for better health, environmental and fiscal outcomes
  • October 25 – School siting: advancing environmental justice and preservation through school siting
  • November 1 – A live chat on school siting and community-centered schools

3. Walk and Roll to School Day and Beyond
Director, Deb Hubsmith, blogs on making every day walk and bike to school day

We’d like to congratulate and thank everyone who planned, or is planning, a successful walk and roll to school day event this month! The Safe Routes Partnership is here to support your efforts and the growth of the Safe Routes to School movement. Check out our dozens of publications including our Local Policy Guide, and other program resources to help support your community to continue walking and bicycling the whole year through. Our director, Deb Hubsmith, blogged to encourage communities to keep up the enthusiasm that Walk to School Day events bring to schools and communities, and to channel that momentum to keep walking and bicycling the rest of the school year.

We asked our Facebook friends to share stories of their successful events, and we wanted to highlight three that stood out to us:

  • 110 students joined Lakewood Elementary School’s Walking School Bus in Phenix City, Alabamaphenixcityal
  • More than 500 students at Carl Traeger Elementary School in Oshkosh,Wisconsin participated in the Ped Safety Dance on Walk to School Day – not only did they walk to school, they also got in extra physical activity in their dancing!
  • In Henrico County, Virginia, they had the First Lady of Virginia Maureen McDonnell, state Secretary of Health Dr. Bill Hazel, state Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Remley and other state and local officials at their flagship Walk to School Day event at Cresview Elementary. We love to hear about elected officials attending your events! Please send Margo Pedroso an email to let us know about any Congressional members who will be attending any upcoming events you might have, and contact us if you need assistance.

Finally, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez participated in Walk to School Day. Check out Secretary LaHood’s blog on celebrating walkable communities and active kids.

4. National Research Council Urges Health Impact Assessments
Report offers framework for weighing health consequences of policies, projects

Factoring health and related costs into decision making is essential to confronting the nation’s health problems and enhancing public well-being, says a new report – Improving Health in the United States – from the National Research Council, which adds that a health impact assessment (HIA) is a promising tool for use by scientists, communities and government and private sector policymakers. The report offers guidance to officials in the public and private sectors on conducting HIAs to evaluate public health consequences of proposed decisions – such as those to build a major roadway, plan a city’s growth or develop national agricultural policies – and suggests actions that could minimize adverse health impacts and optimize beneficial ones.

The committee said that some policies and programs historically not recognized as relating to health are believed or known to have important health consequences. For example, public health has been linked to an array of policies that determine the quality and location of housing, availability of public transportation, land use and street connectivity, agricultural practices and the availability of various types of food, and development and location of businesses and industry.

The study was sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, California Endowment and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are independent, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under an 1863 congressional charter. Panel members, who serve pro bono as volunteers, are chosen by the Academies for each study based on their expertise and experience and must satisfy the Academies’ conflict-of-interest standards. The resulting consensus reports undergo external peer review before completion.

5. Safe Routes Partnership’s Federal Update
One battle is won, but more are likely

Three weeks ago, Congress passed a six-month extension for the surface transportation bill, allowing funding to continue flowing for Safe Routes to School and all other transportation programs until March 31, 2011. With an outpouring of support from tens of thousands of active transportation advocates throughout the United States, Congress was able to beat back an attempt by Sen. Coburn (R-OK) to eliminate funding for Transportation Enhancements in the extension.

While this is good news, we are on notice that this will be an ongoing fight. House Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and Leader Cantor (R-VA) have called Transportation Enhancements a job-killing regulation. Sen. Paul (R-KY) has called for redirecting Transportation Enhancements funding to a fund to do emergency bridge repairs. We may see further attacks on Transportation Enhancements in the coming weeks as Congress considers transportation appropriations. While this may sound disheartening, the battle over Sen. Coburn’s attempt to strip Transportation Enhancements shows that these programs have strong advocates and defenders in Congress. Please know that the Safe Routes Partnership continues to advocate for Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements and Recreational Trails in the halls of Congress, is working with many other partners and will keep up the fight.

In one piece of hopeful news, Rep. Mica (R-FL), who chairs the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, announced that he has the go-ahead from House leadership to find additional funding. Chairman Mica had released an outline of a transportation bill that would have included funding cuts of approximately 35 percent. Now, Chairman Mica can work with House leaders to identify $75-95 billion, which would allow for a six-year transportation bill at current spending levels. Should additional revenue be found, this gives us an opportunity to renew our push for bicycling and walking programs including Safe Routes to School.

All of this reinforces the need for all Safe Routes to School supporters to continue showing U.S. Senators and Representatives how this funding is having a real impact on children’s safety. We hope that you invited your Members of Congress to attend your big Walk to School Day events—if so, let Margo Pedroso know at margo@saferoutespartnership.org so we can follow up. If you didn’t do that, invite your Members of Congress to your next big event!

Separate from the transportation bill, we are pleased to note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced the 61 community and state recipients of the Community Transformation Grants. With the $103 million in funding, all 61 grantees must work on improving health in several priority areas, including active living and healthy eating. Take a look and see if a community near you has been funded—this could provide an opportunity to weave Safe Routes to School into the grant implementation and make real change in our communities.

6. Safe Routes to School State Network Project Update
Missouri partners develop exciting web-based tools

We always like to share the great work our state network project partners are doing; here are two useful tools the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation have developed: one analyzes the equitable distribution of state Safe Routes to School program grant awards, the other calculates walking and bicycling transportation savings and costs.

Is your state department of transportation distributing Safe Routes to School funding equitably? Many of us struggle with whether the Safe Routes to School grant funding is equitably distributed to underserved communities and how to even find out this information. The National Center for Education Statistics website provides a list of all the schools and school districts from the state to local level, demographic statistics and the number of children who qualify for free and reduced lunches – a common measure of the amount of lower income children at schools. Armed with this information and which schools received Safe Routes to School grants from your state DOT, some calculations and mapping will answer your equity questions. This is powerful information to bring to your state Safe Routes to School coordinator to begin discussions about how to ensure that funds are equitably distributed. To learn more about this tool, go to http://mobikefed.org/UnderservedCommunities

Calculating Savings and Benefits from Walking and Bicycling to School
People frequently want to know how much money they will save by having their child bicycle or walk to school. By entering some basic information, such as distance and the number of people walking or bicycling, the calculator will tell you how far you traveled, how much money you saved and the benefits and savings to both you and your community. This includes savings in fuel, maintenance, CO2 emissions and health benefits. To learn more about this tool or give it a try, go to http://mobikefed.org/SavingsCalculator

The advocates from Missouri have also created a version you can modify and easily put on your own website. Check it out at http://mobikefed.org/sites/default/files/savings-calculator.zip

Help us get the word out about these useful tools by promoting them on your web and Facebook pages and to your state network partners. Thanks to our Missouri state network partners at the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation for developing such great resources!

For more information on the network project, please visit www.saferoutespartnership.org/state/network.

7. Free Webinar: Nonprofit Advocacy Organizations and Safe Routes to School
October 19 at 1pm ET – register today

Safe Routes to School programs across the nation are growing at exponential rates as communities begin to see the value of encouraging the simple act of walking and bicycling to school and in daily life from an early age. Nonprofit advocacy organizations involved in schools, health and transportation have found a way to inspire communities through the Safe Routes to School movement, proliferate the message of their organization, build membership and grow their staff.

Please join us as we talk with several organizations that have successfully engaged at the state and local levels to utilize Safe Routes to School to build capacity and leadership through an effective Safe Routes to School campaign. Click here to register now!

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

8. Kentucky Recently Held Fifth Safe Routes to School Funding Cycle
Announcement of funded projects expected in Fall of 2011

Kentucky’s Safe Routes to School program has awarded $8,858,026 of infrastructure funds and $668,138 of non-infrastructure funds. Most of the infrastructure projects are sidewalk projects, crosswalks and installing signals and signage. Non-infrastructure funds have recently been focused on radio ads in October to promote Walk and Roll to School month and also to promote bicycle and pedestrian safety. These have been so successful that the program is considering creating a safety campaign to air statewide on radio and TV throughout the school year. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet recently held its fifth Safe Routes to School application cycle. Applications are under review, and Kentucky hopes to announce funded projects in October. In addition, the program is working with the Kentucky Network Organizer to coordinate walking school bus training

The Kentucky Safe Routes to School state network is currently organized by Kentucky Youth Advocates. Current efforts include local Complete Streets efforts and joint-use agreements. The Kentucky network provided various trainings throughout 2011 at statewide conferences and in local communities to promote Complete Streets. In addition, the network organizer presented on Complete Streets advocacy in rural states at the Safe Routes to School National Conference in August 2011. Currently, the Kentucky network is finishing a project with the Kentucky Cancer Consortium to obtain baseline data on joint-use agreements in Kentucky. The results should be finalized in October 2011.

For more information on Kentucky’s Safe Routes to School program, contact Jackie Jones, Safe Routes to School coordinator at 502-564-2060 or Jackie.Jones@ky.gov. For more information on Kentucky’s state network, contact Andrea Plummer at kentucky@saferoutespartnership.org.

9. Maine Safe Routes to School Program Has Record Year
43 infrastructure projects funded since the start of the program

Using federal Safe Routes to School funding, Maine has funded 43 infrastructure safety projects including sidewalks, crossing improvements, signage and radar guns for enforcement throughout the state. Earlier this year, 11 new projects totaling more than 1 million dollars were awarded to communities from the Safe Routes to School program. Maine also funds additional pedestrian and bicycle improvements near schools with federal Transportation Enhancement funds. Sidewalks and other improvements have dramatically improved safety and the overall community environment near participating schools. The Maine program sets up site visits with communities throughout the year to discuss infrastructure needs and the processes available for communities to work towards improvements.

The Maine program offers a statewide bicycle and pedestrian safety education program that reached more than 10,000 students throughout the state this past year. The Maine program also has two statewide encouragement coordinators who work directly with schools throughout the state. This centralized program provides incentives and technical assistance for any school wanting to organize walk and roll to school events and activities. A total of 396 schools have received direct assistance from the Maine Safe Routes to School encouragement program in Maine. An online School Travel Plan Guide was also developed this past year, complete with downloadable documents that can assist a community throughout the process.

For inspiration, stories and pictures of what communities are doing around the state, check out this 2010-2011 Maine Safe Routes Photo Essay highlighting many of last year’s walking and bicycling to school activities in Maine.

For more information on Maine’s Safe Routes to School program, contact Dan Stewart, Safe Routes to School coordinator.

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 Safe Routes Partnership!

Joining the Safe Routes Partnership is free. Please encourage other organizations, schools, businesses, and government agencies to join the Safe Routes Partnership, a network of more than 500 organizations and agencies.

Funding for the Safe Routes 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 Partnership