Safe Routes to School E-News
Issue #74: February 2012
Safe Routes to School E-News is a monthly email newsletter published by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership (National 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 advance 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.
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In this issue:
1. Our Website’s New Look and Feel
Visit www.saferoutespartnership.org to take a look today!
We are excited to share the new website of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership! The new color scheme, graphics and wonderful photos reflect the vibrancy and energy of the national Safe Routes to School movement.
In addition to the great new design, the website layout helps you easily find important resources and information that strengthen your Safe Routes to School work. On the homepage, there are new links so you can quickly access resources, timely news and ways to take action. If you visit the homepage regularly, you can easily view highlights of the latest additions to our site, Facebook, Twitter and our new blog.
Our entire staff is now blogging regularly on topics including the federal transportation bill, Safe Routes to School best practices, state and regional policy successes, research and more. Over the next few weeks, you will see initial blogs from our staff, introducing themselves and what their blogs will cover. From that point forward, look for regular blog entries with timely updates on what is happening in our state and regional networks, and the hottest topics important to your work and the Safe Routes to School movement. You can even subscribe to the blog to stay up on the latest information.
We hope you will make www.saferoutespartnership.org one of your regular visits on the Internet. All of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership staff are eager to regularly share more with you through our new website and blogs. If you have any questions or comments, please drop us a line at
2. Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s Federal Update
Action on transportation bills in both House and Senate
If you read our legislative alerts, you should be well aware that a lot has happened on the transportation bill since our last e-newsletter update. In the past three weeks, both the House and Senate have commenced consideration of their transportation bills, but more work remains.
In the House, H.R. 7 has a number of alarming provisions, including repealing Safe Routes to School, eliminating funding for Transportation Enhancements, removing funding guarantees for transit and much more. Reps. Petri (R-WI), Johnson (R-IL) and Lipinski (D-IL) led an effort during Committee consideration to restore funding for Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements. That effort narrowly failed in a close vote. These members will be joined with Reps. LaTourette (R-OH), Blumenauer (D-OR) and Johnson (D-TX) in offering a similar amendment on the floor of the House. The full House began consideration of the transportation bill last week, but consideration was delayed due to more than 250 amendments being filed and concern by many Members of Congress over the provisions in the bill.
In the Senate, we are working with Sens. Cardin (D-MD) and Cochran (R-MS) on an amendment to the Senate transportation bill, MAP-21, that would ensure that funding formerly dedicated to Safe Routes to School and bicycling and walking would be available for local governments through competition. Without this amendment, the “Additional Activities” money (the program in which Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements and Recreational Trails are combined) could instead be used by state departments of transportation as a slush fund for environmental mitigation costs for road projects, without any local input or access to funding. Senate consideration of MAP-21 has also been slowed due to hundreds of amendments.
Starting the week of February 27, both the House and Senate will once again try to move forward on their respective transportation bills. We are urging House members to vote no on H.R. 7 because there are too many damaging provisions in the legislation, and are urging Senators to vote for the Cardin-Cochran amendment. You can help us by:
- E-mailing your Representatives and Senators on H.R. 7 and Cardin-Cochran;
- Asking your local leaders—principals, mayors, school board members—to call their Senators in support of the Cardin-Cochran amendment;
- If your Representative is a Republican, call their office to ask them to vote for the Petri-Johnson-LaTourette amendment to restore funding for Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements.
Finally, in other news, our latest State of the States for the first quarter of FY2012 shows that the states have now announced $764 million in spending, and have obligated $470 million in funding. This is one of the slower quarters for obligation in some time, demonstrating the need to continue to work with state departments of transportation on obligation, even while Congress debates the transportation bill.
3. Mission: Readiness – National Security and Safe Routes to School
Why investments in bicycling and walking are essential to preserving military readiness
National security may just be the newest way to sell Safe Routes to School.
Did you know?
- Being overweight is the leading medical disqualifier for military service.
- Roughly one quarter of all Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are too heavy to enlist.
- Every year, the military discharges more than 1,200 first-term enlistees before their contracts are up due to weight problems; the military must then recruit and train their replacements at a cost of $50,000 per person, totaling roughly $60 million annually.
Mission: Readiness is a nonprofit, nonpartisan national security organization led by more than 275 retired generals, admirals and other senior military leaders who work to ensure continued American security and prosperity by calling for smart investments in the upcoming generation of American children. Currently, 75 percent of young Americans ages 17-24 cannot serve in the military, because they are physically unfit, have not graduated from high school or have a criminal record. Retired generals and admirals understand that whether young people join the military or not, they must increase investments so that all young people get the right start and succeed in life. Safe Routes to School is one easy way to promote physical activity to meet these goals and increase the number of young adults who are physically fit and ready to serve our country.
Check out this fact sheet from Mission: Readiness - The Built Environment: Why Investments in Biking and Walking Are Essential to Preserving Military Readiness. After you take a look, think about potential new partners you could reach out to using these arguments. And, thank you to Mission: Readiness for their support of Safe Routes to School!
4. Come to the National Bike Summit and Weight of the Nation
Check out these Washington, DC events
National Bike Summit
If you haven’t registered yet for the National Bike Summit, March 20-22 in Washington, DC, it’s not too late. The conference features educational workshops and a lobby day on Capitol Hill. Join us and help defend critical federal programs, like Safe Routes to School - just when America needs them the most! Three of our staff will be presenting at the Summit, and we encourage you to attend their sessions to empower your Safe Routes to School advocacy work, both at the Summit and as you bring the knowledge back to your local communities.
- The Benefits of Bicycling: Making the Case (March 21, 9:30-10:45am)
Our director, Deb Hubsmith, will give an overview of the very latest economic, health and transportation data related to cycling and Safe Routes to School
- How to Save Cycling at the State Level – (March 21, 9:30-10:45am)
Our technical assistance director, Robert Ping, will share insight on how some states are readying themselves to continue investing in bicycling and walking, and how critical programs such as Safe Routes to Schools can be preserved through state level advocacy.
- “Track A: The Ask” - I Bike, I Vote: Here’s My Ask
Our deputy director, Margo Pedroso, will participate in a workshop that will be repeated in all three breakout slots so all attendees can go at least once. It is essential preparation for attendees Hill meetings on Thursday. Panelists will provide the very latest intelligence on the transportation bill, describe what's at stake as we enter this crucial phase of the legislative process and help hone their "Save Cycling" message.
Weight of the Nation
On May 7-9, 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, will host Weight of the Nation™, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington, DC. Planning for the 2012 conference is being done by CDC with members of the planning committee. Register before March 15 for the CDC Weight of the Nation™ (WON) 2012 Conference to avoid late registration fees. Both registration and housing are now open. Don't miss this important national forum for highlighting policy, system and environmental approaches and solutions that show promise for improving nutrition and physical activity, and preventing obesity. During WON 2012, gather together with opinion leaders and policy makers, public health practitioners, media and social marketing experts, and researchers. Benefits of attending include: learning of new trends and best practices; networking with a broad spectrum of practitioners; hearing from stakeholders and opinion leaders; and finding new resources. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s director, Deb Hubsmith, will be attending and presenting. Join her at this major conference to prevent obesity!
5. April 2-8 is National Public Health Week
Start planning your Safe Routes to School activities today
National Public Health Week (NPHW) – April 2-8, 2012 - is a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving the public’s health. The American Public Health Association (APHA) serves as the organizer of NPHW and develops a national campaign to educate the public, policymakers and practitioners about issues related to each year’s theme. Uniting around this year’s theme of A Healthier America Begins Today: Join the Movement, we can work to encourage more Americans and their communities to take preventive measures to help improve their lives. Little steps can lead to big changes. Does this make anyone else think of Safe Routes to School?!
To be inspired by what others are doing, follow NPHW 2012 on Twitter and Facebook, and share what you are doing too, especially any Safe Routes to School plans to inspire others as well! National Public Health Week is a time to unite around a critical public health issue and focus our collective energy on the singular goal of helping people live longer, happier, healthier lives.
6. Safe Routes to School State Network Project Update
Nashville – prioritizing the transportation and health intersection
We continue to hear more about the ways transportation impacts our lives, particularly the health-related effects on communities that are associated with supporting access to active modes of transportation (especially to and from jobs and schools). Our partners at the Nashville Metropolitan Transportation Office (MPO) are addressing the intersection of transportation and health issues head-on, and in the winter of 2011 they exemplified this mission by creating a “director of healthy communities” position. We are thrilled that Leslie Meehan, AICP (one of our Steering Committee members) is serving in this role.
Tennessee is fourth in the nation for overall rates of obesity, and Middle Tennessee (where Leslie’s MPO works) has one the highest rates of vehicle miles traveled per capita in the nation. Leslie has a big challenge, but also has much positive momentum due in large part to her efforts through the visionary work of the MPO. By recognizing the important synergy between transportation and health, the Nashville MPO continues to ensure that health is considered in various transportation studies, policies and projects. In Leslie’s words, “By creating this position, there is an acknowledgement to devote more resources to our efforts to both understand and educate about the impacts of transportation on health. It will help us to coordinate various studies, policy changes and projects to ensure they include a focus on health impacts.” Her work now is primarily centered on obesity and will continue to look at the impacts of air quality on diseases such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes, and will to continue to examine the relationship between the built environment, transportation and mental health.
We asked Leslie for an example of how the MPO will quantify the impacts of transportation on health. Leslie told us “the MPO is conducting a Regional Household Travel Survey in 2012 that surveys approximately 6,000 households on travel behaviors and subsequent impacts on health. A subset of 600 participants will wear devices that collect information on physical activity as part of daily travel. This landmark study collects data that is integral to illustrating the relationship between transportation, physical activity and overall health. The data will be used in the next update of the MPO Regional Transportation Plan to shape additional tools and policies on health outcomes in the regional transportation planning process.”
We congratulate Leslie and support the vision of the Nashville MPO, which continues to set a good example for the rest of the nation on transportation-related health initiatives.
7. Alliance for Biking and Walking Releases Benchmarking Report
Ranks cities and states on bicycling and walking
In a recently released report, Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2012 Benchmarking Report, the Alliance ranks all 50 states and the 51 largest US cities on bicycling and walking levels, safety, funding and other factors.
This report comes at a critical moment, as Congress takes up the imminent passage of the next federal transportation bill, which dictates how billions of tax dollars will be spent over coming years. The Benchmarking Report reveals that, in nearly every city and state, pedestrians and bicyclists are disproportionately at risk of being killed, and currently receive less than a fair share of transportation dollars. While 12 percent of trips in the US are by bike or foot, 14 percent of traffic fatalities are bicyclists and pedestrians. Pedestrian and bicycle projects receive less than two percent of federal transportation dollars.
If you would like more information about this report, please contact the Alliance at benchmarking@PeoplePoweredMovement.org .
8. Michigan Safe Routes to School Program Update
Collaboration and multi-discipline integration are key to success
Michigan’s Safe Routes to School program promotes Safe Routes to School as a planning process, with the primary value derived from the relationships and increased level of awareness developed during the planning process. Program outreach, education and technical support are provided via a contract with the Michigan Fitness Foundation (MFF). MFF has contracts with Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Michigan Association of Planning and the Michigan Department of Community Health in order to integrate Safe Routes to School principles and practices across disciplines.
In 2011, Michigan awarded $5,327,700 to 29 schools. Adding that to the $15,095,664 awarded to 81 schools in 2008-2010, yields a total of $20,423,364 in grants to 110 schools throughout Michigan. Funding applications are accepted on a rolling basis. The announcements scheduled for 2012 are tentative, depending on funding actions by Congress.
For more information about Michigan Safe Routes to School resources, please contact Meg Thomas, Michigan Fitness Foundation SR2S Director at (517) 908-3814 or Michigan SRTS coordinator, Bryan Armstrong, AICP, at (517) 335-2636, or visit the Michigan Safe Routes to School program website.
9. West Virginia Safe Routes to School Funding Reaching Thousands
More than 31,000 students have received the benefits of Safe Routes to School
West Virginia has, since Native Americans traversed and inhabited this land to the present day, been formed and largely developed based on the terrain of the state. Affectionately known as “The Mountain State,” West Virginia has always struggled with how to provide usable roadways, sidewalks and transportation in general through such rough terrain. Thanks to the Safe Routes to School program, West Virginia has awarded approximately $6.5 million dollars to construct/repair sidewalks, construct walking trails and funded activities to educate, encourage, enforce and evaluate. The aforementioned improvements/activities have resulted in a marked increase in pedestrian and bicycle traffic to and from schools. Without the Safe Routes to School program, many of these school and subsequent community improvement projects/activities would have never occurred.
The Safe Routes to School program has allowed the West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) to award a total of 62 projects in 26 counties affecting approximately 31,376 students at 66 elementary and middle schools. In October of 2011, Governor Earl Ray Tomlin announced the award of approximately $1 million dollars for eight new projects and activities in eight counties affecting 26 elementary and middle schools with approximately 3,956 students. These projects include everything from walking trails, sidewalks, signage, crosswalks, and activities ranging from incentives, education by local and state police, bicycle rodeos, walking school buses and more.
The Safe Routes to School program has improved the livability of communities across West Virginia and continues to do so year after year. They just closed an application cycle on February 15, to continue improving the ability of students to walk/bicycle to school while providing encouragement, education, enforcement and evaluation. Safe Routes to School has been a wonderful tool promoting collaboration among the Governor’s Office, WVDOH, communities, counties and schools while improving the safety of students and communities alike.
For more information on West Virginia’s Safe Routes to School program, please contact Ryan C. Burns, SRTS coordinator, at (304) 558-9297 or visit the program website.
10. Safe Routes to School News throughout the Country
Local and state Safe Routes to School program news links
Safe Routes to School Q/A with Deb Hubsmith on RWJF’s NewPublicHealth Blog
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 National Partnership!
Joining the National Partnership is free. Please encourage other organizations, schools, businesses, and government agencies to join the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, a network of more than 500 organizations and agencies.
Funding for the Safe Routes to School National 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: