I have been thinking a lot about how we can ensure Safe Routes to School, walking and bicycling can continue to flourish around the country in our new “MAP-21” world without dedicated funding. So I’ve pulled together a “top 10” list for how Safe Routes to School can survive and thrive.
During this month, we’ll be making available more specific action items to help you engage in state-by-state campaigns to maximize state resources for our programs to help with #1-3 below. But, there are plenty of other ideas below you can be inspired by to build on the momentum in your local community.
1) Get the existing Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements funding spent: Fortunately, prior funds from SAFETEA-LU are still available, so we need to work hard to get these funds spent on beneficial projects in all 50 states. For Safe Routes to School, there is still $300M in funds to be awarded. We can build a lot of sidewalks and bikeways with that money.
2) Work at the state level for MAP-21: The feds punted decision-making to the states, so we need advocates to step up and run coordinated campaigns to ensure that Safe Routes to School Coordinators continue and that the state makes their 50% share of the Transportation Alternatives (TA) funds available for grants. We’re also endorsing use of the Rec Trails funds off the top of the TA pot.
3) Work the local level for MAP-21: The new transportation bill designates 50% of the TA funding for competition at the local level. We should work together to set recommended performance criteria that favors bicycle and pedestrian projects, ensure that locals are ready to propose good projects and engage large Metropolitan Planning Organizations that will also be making project decisions.
4) Pass state and local legislation to bring in more SRTS and bike/ped money: We should work with policy makers in all 50 states to generate new Safe Routes to School funding like Hawaii just did through HB2626. On the Hawaiian islands, moving violations will now come with a fine that supports Safe Routes to School projects.
5) Get more bike/ped policies passed: We should be working at the state, regional and local levels to pass and implement more Complete Streets policies, and to advance bikeway design projects like Bikes Belong’s Green Lane project which is cooperating with city government to build protected separated bikeways in six urban locations.
6) Encourage research and evaluation: Let’s collaborate with the CDC, state and local health departments, and universities to initiate studies on Safe Routes to School, walking and bicycling to better quantify health and safety benefits, including the creation of health impact assessments.
7) Collaborate with public health and other allies: In addition to research, we should work more with public health professionals all over the country to enable them to become advocates to help advance active transportation infrastructure, and ensuring that the needs of lower income communities are met. The County of Los Angeles has helped to lead the way to show how health involvement can help to change public policy.
8) Make the economic case: Money talks. Let’s build the body of evidence showing that Safe Routes to School, walking and bicycling creates more jobs, better health, less injuries and helps to mitigate school bus reductions. A 2011 PERI study showed that bike/ped infrastructure projects create more jobs that highway only projects, and our 2011 fact sheet includes many other good statistics.
9) Kids on center stage: Advocates should teach kids how to be spokespeople for Safe Routes to School and the kind of future they want to create – one where they can walk and bicycle safety to school and in daily life. Have kids speak to policy makers, testify at public meetings and write letters to the editor. Kids can be our best spokespeople.
10) Build political will: Let’s start working now to build political will to return dedicated funding to Safe Routes to School in the next transportation bill, which will be up in only two years. Bring Congressional members to see federally funded projects, Safe Routes to School activities, and the safety needs for better bikeways and walkways.
If we can inspire advocates all over the nation to work on this top ten list, we can continue to advance infrastructure and policies that support active transportation throughout the country, and reap the benefits of improved safety, better health and more connected communities. Let’s do it!
For more information on MAP-21, see our MAP-21 Resource Center.