FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 21, 2009
Deb Hubsmith, Director
Margo Pedroso, Policy Manager
Washington DC - The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is pleased to announced that today, Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Richard Burr (R-NC) , Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Susan Collins (R-ME) joined together to introduce the Safe Routes to School Program Reauthorization Act.
The federal Safe Routes to School program was first created in 2005 through the SAFETEA-LU transportation bill and is authorized through 2009. The program funds infrastructure improvements (such as sidewalks, pathways, bike lanes, and safe crossings) and education, law enforcement, and promotion campaigns to make it safer and more common for children to walk and bicycle to and from school in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The program is up for reauthorization by Congress as part of the next surface transportation bill, which will be under discussion this summer.
The new Safe Routes to School bill proposes to build on successes around the country and strengthen and expand the federal program in several ways:
• Triple funding for the program, from the FY2009 level of $183 million to $600 million per year to meet the high demand and need for the program;
• Expand eligibility to include high schools and to allow a state to spend a portion of its funds to address bus stop safety and improved access in more rural communities;
• Improve project delivery and reduce overhead by addressing regulatory burdens; and
• Add a research and evaluation component.
Deb Hubsmith, Director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership remarked, “We are grateful to Senators Harkin, Burr, Sanders, Merkley, and Collins for introducing the Safe Routes to School Program Reauthorization Act, and we look forward to continuing to work with them to build additional support within the Senate. By growing and enhancing the federal Safe Routes to School program, we will reduce traffic and pollution, improve children’s health, and create safer and healthier schools and communities throughout the nation.”
In 1969 nearly half of U.S children walked or bicycled to schools, but today less than 15% get to school under their own power. This decrease in active transport to school coincided with an alarming increase in childhood obesity. During the past four decades the obesity rate for children ages 6 to 11 has more than quadrupled (from 4.2 to 17 percent), and the obesity rate for adolescents ages 12 to 19 has more than tripled (from 4.6 to 17.6 percent). In addition, communities throughout the U.S. report that as much as 21 percent of morning traffic can be parents driving their children to schools.
The federal Safe Routes to School program has proven successes. Many Steps . . . One Tomorrow, produced by the National Center for Safe Routes to School, examines the first three years of implementation of the program and includes a map showing the location of the more than 4500 schools that have received federal SRTS grants thus far. In addition, the Safe Routes to School 2009 Policy Report: Moving to the Future and Building on Early Achievements, written by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, identifies ways in which the program could be strengthened to help even more children and communities become healthy, safe, and green.
The following national organizations have already expressed support for the legislation:
Alliance for Biking and Walking
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
American Heart Association
American Public Health Association
American Society of Landscape Architects
Campaign to End Obesity
Center for Health and Learning
Child Safety Solutions, Inc.
Keep Kids Alive Drive 25
League of American Bicyclists
Mobility Education Foundation
National Association for Sport and Physical Education
National Center for Bicycling & Walking
National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity
National Complete Streets Coalition
National Parent Teacher Association
National Recreation and Park Association
National Wildlife Federation
Safe Kids USA
Safe Routes to School National Partnership
Smart Growth America
State and Territorial Injury Prevention Directors Association
Transportation for America
YMCA of the USA
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership, hosted by the non-profit Bikes Belong Foundation, is a network of more than 400 nonprofit organizations, government agencies, schools, and professionals working together to advance the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) movement in the United States. SRTS can provide a variety of important benefits to children and their communities, including increasing physical activity, reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality, and enhancing neighborhood safety.