Safe Routes to School in the Pacific Northwest

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The Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s mission is to advocate for safe walking and bicycling to and from school, and in daily life, to improve the health and well-being of America’s children and to foster the creation of livable, sustainable communities.

Working in the Pacific Northwest, this regional network brings together community members of all ages, including advocates, school officials and teachers, and those interested in or working on health, transportation and planning. Together, around the greater Portland, Vancouver, and Salem regions, we support walking and bicycling policies and funding within communities, to create a place where walking and bicycling are safe and convenient. Our efforts to improve policies and leverage support for Safe Routes to School in the Pacific Northwest are supported by Kaiser Permanente.

Portland budget goes big for transportation, safety, and student travel

As the Safe Routes to School movement celebrates ten successful years of helping kids to walk, bike, and roll safely to school, and we wrap up another successful Bike Month full of promoting active travel to schools, we were pleased to see the City of Portland’s thoughtful dedication of one-time and ongoing funds in the proposed FY15-16 budget supporting Safe Routes to School, pedestrian safety, and access to transit – including:

  • Support of Vision Zero outreach and education work in Portland;
  • Improvements for completion of bicycle and pedestrian networks and neighborhood greenways, many which serve school-aged youth;
  • Safety improvements on 122nd Ave in East Portland, and other known high crash corridors; and
  • Funding for Youth Bus Pass for Portland Public High School students.

It is widely known that Youth Pass, a partnership between Portland Public Schools, City of Portland, and TriMet, provides significant benefits for high school students, not just for getting to school, but also to access resources and jobs throughout the city. All of these budget allocations will directly benefit students in the City of Portland, as well as the many people who rely on walking and safe transit access, and are in dire need of pedestrian safety improvements.

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The Mayor’s initial proposed budget allocated $60,000 for Safe Routes to School, but after persuasive testimony from many members of the community at a budget hearing last week, the Mayor’s updated budget now includes funding for the full request from Commissioner Novick’s Bureau of Transportation for $300,000 to support expansion of Safe Routes to School programming to middle schools and high schools.

Preliminary data collected at Portland schools suggests that middle school students at K-8 schools walk, bike, and roll more than their peers at traditional middle schools, which have not been a focus of Portland’s Safe Routes to School programs. This suggests an opportunity and potential for significant growth in this age group. These age groups have not historically been a focus of Safe Routes to School programs at the national level, and there are not many model programs; this funding will allow Portland the opportunity to join and shape a growing interest in the travel habits of older students who are more independent and starting to solidify life-long transportation habits.

This commitment and dedication of funding will provide an enormous impact on the City of Portland’s successful and highly regarded Safe Routes to School program, which has run continuously for nearly ten years — meaning that an elementary school student when the program began would now be in middle or high school. To date, the city’s Safe Routes to School program has lacked the resources to continue to serve these students as they enter middle school — and as we look to the importance of travel habits in high school and beyond.

National research has shown that schools that implement comprehensive Safe Routes to School initiatives can result in a 43 percent increase in walking and bicycling rates in just five years. This funding will provide critical financial support to expand Portland’s Safe Routes to School programming, increase active transportation at schools with a high percentage of low-income families attending, and will reach more than 10,000 students in Portland — paying off in the long-term with a healthier, more active city, and stronger engagement with historically under-served populations, particularly youth of color.

This budget allocation is a welcome step in the right direction, and we look forward to working with the City of Portland and community partners on these much-needed initiatives focused on older students.

Our efforts to improve policies and leverage support for Safe Routes to School in the Pacific Northwest are supported by Kaiser Permanente.

Support expansion of Safe Routes to School in Portland budget: Public Hearing 5/20

City of Portland will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, May 20th at 6:00pm at City Hall, 1221 SW 4th Ave., to consider items for the 2015-16 Budget. The City of Portland is considering the Mayor’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year (FY15-16), including $41 million in additional revenue one-time considerations. Numerous requests in the budget will support Safe Routes to School expansion as well as pedestrian safety improvements and access to transit for all Portlanders. Your support of these important budget items in the City of Portland’s budget needs to be heard. Please write the Mayor and City Council about the budget (sample email below), and plan to attend the Public Hearing on 5/20 if you’re able. kids crossing street Funding requests in the FY15-16 budget will support pedestrian safety and access to transit, including:

  • Expansion of the City’s nationally-acclaimed Safe Routes to School program, into middle and high schools and better serving the needs of lower-income schools;
  • Safety improvements on 122nd Ave in East Portland, and other known high crash corridors;
  • Funding for Youth Bus Pass for Portland Public High School students;
  • Improvements for completion of bicycle and pedestrian networks and neighborhood greenways; and
  • Support of Vision Zero outreach and education work in Portland.

Continue reading

Walk & Bike to School in May

This year marks the ten year anniversary of the Safe Routes to School program. A decade ago, in July of 2005, Congress passed federal legislation that established a National Safe Routes to School program to improve safety for walking and bicycling routes to school. Today, we know not only of the safety benefits of more kids walking and bicycling, but also improvements in health, physical activity, equity (pdf), and air quality, as well as reduced traffic congestion, safer & more efficient school bus service (pdf), cost savings, and community building. What a long way we have come!

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2015 also marks the celebration of the fourth annual National Bike to School Day. Bike to School Day is on Wednesday, May 6th and many schools in Oregon & SW Washington are signed up to participate with extra-fun events on that day, including great give-aways, fun bike trains, and even a few parties — be sure to let your students know to walk, bike, or roll on Wednesday, and have fun out there!

Friday, May 1 was the first day of the Oregon & SW Washington Fire Up Your Feet Spring Activity Challenge — a great way to start helping support a healthier school environment. In Oregon, as a registrant of Fire Up Your Feet, you & your school are also registered for the Walk+Bike Challenge. With this partnership you have a chance to really make a difference for your school. The terrific weekly prizes and incentives with the Walk+Bike Challenge, added to Fire Up Your Feet cash awards, will help support your school wellness efforts all year.

Fire Up Your Feet Breakout Challenge #1 (runs from May 1-8)
K-8 schools with 20 participants tracking at least one activity will be entered into a drawing for cash prize. Winners will be announced the following week. Here are a few helpful hints to increase your school’s chances of winning this and other awards:

  • Want to track an activity for many – even hundreds – of students with just a few clicks? Create a Group (such as a classroom) and when you track an activity for the group, it will be logged for every individual in that group.
  • Want to be sure everyone that registers counts as a participant? Make sure participants track activity at least once during the Challenge period.
  • Finally, want to cinch the victory? Make sure your school has a minimum of 10 participants by encouraging five parents to register and track, sending flyers home with students, pinning a poster on your school’s bulletin board or inserting a blurb into your school newsletter.

Participants are already winning prizes, so sign up today, start walking & rolling, and track your activity!

Happy Bike Month!

Now is the time to speak up for Washington state’s kids

In Washington state’s 2015 legislative session, state House and Senate transportation leaders have worked for many months to craft transportation revenue proposals that include critical safe biking and walking investments. Both the Senate and House transportation proposals made important contributions and forward progress, with the House transportation proposal setting a foundation for new walking and biking investments at approximately $236 million over a 16-year timeframe.

These investment increases are significant and worth supporting.

Please thank your legislators today for their work to date on the transportation package and ask them for more school safety investments.

Eighty-four percent of Washington state voters think funding for Safe Routes to School should be prioritized in the transportation budget. More can be done to invest in the state’s Safe Routes to School grant program. Currently only 1 in 4 school safety projects are getting funded. With a modest increase from the House funding levels, we can enable even more locally driven school safety projects to reach completion.

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Now is the time to ask legislators to support the House proposal’s initial investment levels for biking and walking, and to remind the legislature that their work is not done. We are so close to making more school safety projects a reality. Our partners at Washington Bikes have posted a great write up on the revenue package with a link to send a letter to your legislators to thank them for their work to date and to ask for more needed school safety investments.

Thank you for taking the time to thank our state legislators for investing in our children, and remind them that every child in Washington state deserves the chance to safely walk and roll to school.

Please send a note to your Washington state legislator today. Click here now.

Thanks for your support of safe and healthy routes to school for all of Washington’s kids!

$3000 grants available to write or update School Actions Plans

Whether your school is in Keizer or Tualatin, a current School Action Plan is a great way to continue or re-start down the path of Safe Routes to School.

While not a requirement of the Enhance application process by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) for sidewalk and bicycle facilities projects, the selection committees of ODOT’s Area Commissions on Transportation (ACTs) suggest that Action Plans are often very persuasive evidence of the need for the project in enhancing the safety of students walking to the school site.

While we cannot guarantee the funding picture for the future of Oregon Safe Routes to School non-infrastructure grants to fund Safe Routes to School programs and coordinators, we are hopeful for another round for fiscal year 2017 (starts Oct 2016). To apply for these, your school or district will need a current action plan.

If your school, PTA, neighborhood, or town wants to take a closer look at barriers and opportunities to increase walking and bicycling to school and throughout the community, now is a great time to start.

Mini-Grants for School Action Plans are currently available, and these can be used to update outdated Action Plans (those older than 5 years) — Applications with budgets up to $3000 due April 13, 2015.

Read more about School Action Plans, get in touch with Lynne if you have questions, and be sure to apply soon!

Milwaukie & Tigard Lead the Call for Healthy Kids and Safe Streets

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is pleased to support the For Every Kid Coalition in the Pacific Northwest region. For Every Kid is a growing coalition calling for Safe Routes to School for every kid in the Metro-area; vocal support from cities and school districts is an outcome of key partners coming together to promote the benefits and work with communities and we have been an active part of the leadership of this effort.

Local leaders agree: creating safe options to walk, bike, or ride the bus to school is critical to improving the health of kids.

In March, in unanimous votes, Milwaukie and Tigard City Councils became the first cities to pass resolutions calling on the Metro Regional Government to meaningfully invest in a region-wide “Safe Routes to School” initiative.

“The ability to walk and bike safely is critical to school kids,” said Milwaukie City Councilor Mark Gamba. “The measure of any community is the safety and well-being of its children. I intend to see Milwaukie build the necessary infrastructure to create safe routes to school and move towards the eventual goal of being an utterly walkable and bikeable city.”

Families at Linwood Elementary took action to make walking and bicycling to school safer.

Families at Linwood Elementary took action to make walking and bicycling to school safer.

Efforts in Milwaukie kicked off in 2014 when local residents attended our Clackamas County meet & greet event to learn more about how they could make their communities safer for kids walking and bicycling while improving healthy transportation options. Parents at Linwood Elementary didn’t wait to jump on board for their kids’ safety, and the interest in Safe Routes to School has spread like wildfire throughout the City of Milwaukie and Clackamas County.

Following the passage of Milwaukie’s resolution on March 17th, Tigard City Council and Tigard Mayor John Cook joined the call, passing their own resolution on Tuesday. Continue reading

Leaders to Learn From

Know an excellent school district leader? Is someone in your school district doing great things around health, student travel, or the like? Each year, Education Week shines a spotlight on some of the nation’s most outstanding school district leaders in its Leaders To Learn From special report.(Check out the Leaders for 2015.)

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Help shine a spotlight on some of the nation’s most outstanding school district leaders by nominating individuals who are leading the way on health and physical activity in our schools.

Education Week wants your input for a special report profiling school district leaders who have brought fresh, successful ideas to their school communities. Submit your school district leaders for 2016. Nominations due by August 1, 2015.