I have written before about how well the state network project is doing. Looking at the first seven months, I am happy to report there has been a real growth spurt as the number of participants increases, as do the contact lists. And the organizers’ skills are getting noticed as are the networks activities. Here are some snapshots:
The Mississippi network examined lower-income communities located in the core of Jackson, which not only has poor infrastructure for bicycling and walking, but crime is also an issue. To work on these issues, the network has some new friends in the form of partners. The police, neighborhood organizations, community outreach coordinators, PTAs at neighboring schools and presidents of the neighborhood associations are joining efforts to make these communities safe places to bicycle and walk to school. We expect they will be a role model for other communities.
Our Florida organizer worked with the Department of Transportation’s SRTS coordinator to update the application system and rewrite the ranking criteria used for evaluating proposed projects.
While New Jersey, one of our new network states already had a strong group of organizations working on Safe Routes to School and related policies, they have embraced us and were a strong presence at our first network meeting. In many policies, New Jersey is the big sibling and we are very happy to be working with them.
In many of the network states, Complete Streets are really taking off and our partners have been very involved. In Mississippi, they are encouraging cities and towns to hold public meetings and outreach to explain Complete Streets to ensure clear understanding of what they offer by way of the improvements and to show the benefit of implementation.
We also continue to find that joint-use agreements and policies are quickly growing. States are realizing that liability, real or perceived, can stifle the growth and development of joint-use agreements. So the legislatures in two network states, Mississippi and Tennessee, have passed laws relieving the schools of liability in joint-use agreements. After the laws went in to effect, the network partners have been getting the word out to the school communities and other stakeholders to encourage and ease the way for more agreements.
As you can see, we are proud of our network states. We can’t wait to share their accomplishments when the project turns one year old.