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Safe Routes to School funding will help with kids' health

Hundreds of millions of dollars are now available to schools to help more kids walk and bike.
Safe Routes to School funding available for states for FY05-09 and Guiding Principles

From National Center for Bicycling & Walking

"The new program is an opportunity for schools and public health agencies to take action to improve the health of our children"

SCHOOLS, HEALTH AGENCIES BIG WINNERS IN TRANSPORTATION BILL

On August 10th, the President signed into law a bill designed to meet this nation's transportation needs for the next six years: the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA). The bill includes a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program that will make hundreds of millions of dollars available to schools to help more kids walk and bike to school and thus realize huge benefits in public health, neighborhood cohesion, and other important areas.

photo of kids and mother on trail
Walking to Chester Andover Elementary School, PA

Section 1404 of the bill establishes the new SRTS program, which will provided every state with a minimum of $1 million in funding each year. "This money will give communities at least some of the resources they need to help get children walking and biking to school again," said Bill Wilkinson, executive director of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking (NCBW).

While much of this money will no doubt be used for projects such as building sidewalks and improving crosswalks near schools, a percentage of the funds has been set-aside for programs intended to actively encourage walking and bicycling to school; conduct public awareness campaigns to change the behaviors of students, parents, and drivers; and for planning and training, among other activities. The funds will be distributed by the state departments of transportation; they will be made available to public agencies and nonprofit organizations; and the bill authorizes the use of 100% federal funds for projects and activities.

"Today, we've got our first generation of children who don't know what it is like to walk or ride a bicycle to school," Wilkinson noted. "The health effects of this inactivity are devastating: childhood obesity has nearly tripled and diabetes is now an epidemic among our youth. We've got to do something now the change the direction we're headed."

"The Safe Routes to School program is an opportunity for schools and public health agencies to take action to improve the health of our children, Wilkinson said. "We need to join together to take this new program and use it to build a nationwide movement for healthy communities for healthy children."

In addition to the health benefits associated with more active children, the bill also offers a chance for some economic relief. "I think everyone wins with the passage of this bill," said Sharon Roerty, NCBW's Safe Routes to School program manager. "As transportation costs continue to rise, schools are getting squeezed just as much as families. A return to walking and bicycling makes good cents. And kids like it more than sitting on the bus, or waiting in a traffic jam."

For more about Safe Routes to School, please visit the Bicycle and Pedestrian Resources area.

BIKES BELONG FUNDS SAFE ROUTES TO SCHOOL PARTNERSHIP

Aug. 10, 2005

Bikes Belong Coalition announced today that Deb Hubsmith of Marin County, California, has been selected to coordinate the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. This fast-growing network of organizations and professional groups is working to set goals, share best practices, secure funding, and provide detailed policy input to implementing agencies for Safe Routes to School, a new $612 million federal program. Bikes Belong is also asking bicycle and pedestrian groups across America to join the partnership by signing the Memorandum of Understanding.

"The Safe Routes top School National Partnership, funded initially by Bikes Belong, is designed to ensure that the Safe Routes to School money authorized by the new federal transportation bill is put to the best possible use. The funds will be available to all 50 states during the next five years to build facilities and run educational programs that will create safe ways for kids to pedal and walk to school. The Safe Routes program addresses the alarming trend toward child obesity and inactivity, while also reducing traffic congestion and air pollution.

"Hubsmith, who developed one of the first Safe Routes to School pilot programs in the U.S. and is a national leader in the movement, has been tapped by Bikes Belong to coordinate the effort during the next six months. Hubsmith will collaborate with existing bicycle and pedestrian organizations and other interested parties to:

  • Build the Safe Routes to School National Partnership
  • Synthesize Best Practices for Safe Routes to School
  • Provide policy guidance for the Federal Highways Administration and State Department of Transportation
  • Generate media attention for Safe Routes
  • Create resources to help communities and states launch new Safe Routes to School programs

"Safe Routes is a vitally important program that needs to start fast and strong on the national level," said Tim Blumenthal, executive director of Bikes Belong Coalition. "We are very pleased to work with Deb Hubsmith, who has tremendous experience in this field."

Hubsmith said, "Through Safe Routes to School, we will create a new era for bicycling and walking in America. I'm so grateful that Bikes Belong Coalition is taking a leadership role in launching the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. This collaborative effort will benefit children and communities in all 50 states."

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