Safe Routes to School in the Pacific Northwest


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 generously supported by Kaiser Permanente.

Two new National Partnership reports explore equity & violence prevention

We all need transportation to get to school and work, buy food, find housing, and live our daily lives. But low-income people and people of color in the United States face transportation hurdles, based on historical and ongoing inequities in transportation and community investments, that can mean that just accessing basic needs is time consuming, dangerous, and almost impossible – and that can include the trip to school.

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has released two new reports that explore the issues that arise when social inequities and the threat of violence create barriers to active transportation and opportunity for low-income communities and people of color. These publications were made possible through a cooperative agreement between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Public Health Association.

At the Intersection of Active Transportation and Equity: Joining Forces to Make Communities Healthier and Fairer (pdf) explores the complexities of equitable active transportation and the issues that arise at the junction of efforts to advance walking and bicycling and work to increase health, fairness, and opportunity for all communities.

Taking Back the Streets and Sidewalks: How Safe Routes to School and Community Safety Initiatives Can Overcome Violence and Crime (pdf) provides a primer for Safe Routes to School professionals looking to address community safety threats that may discourage or endanger students walking or bicycling to school, explains the relevance of Safe Routes to School to violence prevention proponents, and sets out strategies for collaborating to reduce violence and crime, and increase safety and health for children and youth.

Portlanders unite around safer streets for everyone

In the wake of a series of tragic crashes, injuries, and fatalities to people on foot and bike in the Portland region, now is the time to act. The unfortunate reality is that serious injuries and fatalities are happening on our roads on a regular basis. This is impacting vulnerable users at a much higher rate, with pedestrians making up over half of the fatalities on our roads last year. There is no one fix to our unsafe roads, but there are many things that we can, and must, do now. In 2014, there were 28 deaths in Portland due to traffic crashes and there have been 10 so far this year.

On June 2, Kari Schlosshauer, the National Partnership’s Pacific Northwest regional policy manager, joined our partners Oregon Walks, Bicycle Transportation Alliance, and Community Cycling Center, for a meeting with Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick, and other stakeholders, where we called on the City of Portland to embrace Vision Zero, broadly, publicly, and immediately. Immediately following the meeting, Mayor Hales did so during a press conference and in a media release.

source: Bike PGH

source: Bike PGH

Here’s a great primer on what Vision Zero is, from the Vision Zero Network.

Our community-based organizations called for action on immediate steps the City can take to improve safety on our streets, including:

  • Reduce speed limits citywide – Transportation Director Treat recently made a formal request to the Oregon Speed Zone Control Board seeking to expedite the process for setting speeds on city streets, allowing the city to take into account how and when pedestrians and cyclists use the road.
    • Speed matters: at 40mph, only 1 out of 10 pedestrians survive, but at 30mph half do, and when speed limits drop to 20mph, 9 out of 10 pedestrians survive.
    • Other innovative ideas could include “neighborhood slow zones” or “play streets” such as those recently piloted in Seattle. Play Streets include both school-organized and community-led play streets, and offer an opportunity to expand the use of our streets and provide more places for people.
  • Launch a broad-based public education campaign on Vision Zero
    • We must frame speeding in the same context as drunk driving and seat belt use. A sustained public dialogue is necessary, via signs on buildings, in buses, on our computers and televisions, enclosed in our utility bills, and more, that stresses the danger of what driving even five mph over the posted speed limit can do to a struck pedestrian or person riding a bicycle.
  • Ensure greater enforcement of laws that protect people walking and riding bicycles – we were pleased to see the Portland Police Bureau at the table, and look forward to their continued engagement both at the table and on the streets.
    • Examine and document all crashes and injuries on our roads, and work to determine a root cause analysis of what goes wrong on our streets and intersections, and why these crashes are happening.
    • Ensure that enforcement is equitable and does not disproportionately impact communities of color, the demographic most likely to be injured while walking or bicycling.
  •  Prioritize our limited safety funding on engineering improvements 
    • Fix our highest crash locations and ensure routes to high-use destinations, such as schools and transit stops, are truly safe. We must focus our limited safety funding on engineering improvements along High Crash Corridors, our most dangerous intersections, and high-use destinations, especially in those areas that are historically under-served or that serve our most vulnerable populations, such as older adults and youth.
    • Implement Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) and Leading Bicycle Interval (LBI) signals near schools, on high-use bikeways and pedestrian crossings, and in any location with vulnerable users, such as older adults and children. These signals allow pedestrians and bicyclists to get out in front of vehicle traffic, be more visible to drivers, and reduce turning movement conflicts.
    • Other innovative ideas could include “daylighting” intersection corners. State law ( prohibits parking within 20 feet of a crosswalk at an intersection, yet this law is not enforced in Portland. Vehicles parked at intersections block sight lines for pedestrians as well as turning vehicles, including cars and bicycles, and contribute to unsafe intersection situations.

      “And what’s not to like about providing parking for 10 customers where there used to be parking for just one?” – Joseph Rose, Oregonian

Most fatal crashes in Portland happen on just 10 streets, which the Portland Bureau of Transportation have designated High Crash Corridors. Though they represent only 3 percent of the roads in Portland, they account for 51 percent of all pedestrian fatalities.

Students from 36 elementary schools in Portland, in PPS, David Douglas, Centennial, Reynolds & Parkrose School Districts, must cross or travel along a “High Crash Corridor” to get to their school.

Vision Zero has the goal of providing a safe, multi-modal transportation system where no one is killed or seriously injured on our streets. We are pleased that the City of Portland has embraced the concept of Vision Zero, but like so many multifaceted problems, it’s not clear how it will be implemented. While there is no one fix to our unsafe roads, there are many things that we must start to do now.

We look forward to long term and sustained support for safety for everyone on our streets.

Download our full media release here (pdf).

Take Action: Help Reduce Speeding on Portland’s High Crash Corridors

Students from 36 elementary schools in Portland, in PPS, David Douglas, Centennial, Reynolds & Parkrose School Districts, must cross or travel along a “High Crash Corridor” to get to their school.

These roadways, just 3% of Portland’s road network, account for more than 50% of the city’s pedestrian fatalities. This is unacceptable.

Speeding and aggressive driving are the top contributing factors to serious crashes. Currently in the Oregon Legislature, HB 2621 would authorize piloting fixed speed cameras on Portland’s most dangerous roads. Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggest that over the eight year pilot period HB 2621 would:

  • prevent the loss of 16 lives
  • prevent more than 2,000 people from being injured in traffic crashes
  • save ~$71 million in wage and productivity losses, damage, and medical expenses

Please join us in supporting HB 2621 in the Oregon Legislature. This bill will allow the installation of clearly marked speeding traffic cameras on high crash corridors — making it safer for our children to walk, bike, and roll to school. Whether you live in Portland or elsewhere in the state, this bill provides an opportunity to make our streets safer.

Please write or call your state senator and representative today and urge them to support HB 2621.

The Oregonian Editorial Board supports HB 2621: “It’s clear that speeders continue to pose unaccountable risk to other drivers, and most of all pedestrians… Unmanned photo radar would simply be a cost-efficient, not to mention racial-profiling-proof, method of detecting and punishing drivers whose indifference to life poses threat.”

One death on our streets is too many. Traffic fatalities and injuries are not inevitable, and can be prevented through smart policy and system design. Read more about Vision Zero initiatives in Portland and Oregon.

APPLY! Two great Safe Routes to School jobs: Tigard & Beaverton

Two great jobs posted this week for Safe Routes to School work in Tigard and Beaverton! These positions both come from funding from Metro’s Regional Travel Options (RTO) grants, and this is the first time RTO has funded a school-focused project. Check out the descriptions and links below, but move quickly because these applications close soon!

Beaverton School District (proposals due June 5)

Beaverton School District (BSD) was awarded a Federal Transit Administration grant from Metro’s Regional Travel Options program (Federal Grant). The grant is a two year grant to start July 1, 2015. The objective of BSD’s grant proposal is to establish a long term plan, policy and programs for the district’s Safe Routes to School program. BSD is presently seeking a consultant to staff this project.
Read the BSD request for consultant description and project goals here.

City of Tigard (applications due June 10)

The City of Tigard is currently recruiting for a Program Coordinator (Safe Routes to School) position. This position will be responsible for development, coordination, and implementation of the Safe Routes to School program for the City. This includes program development/planning, program administration, marketing/outreach, education and training, event promotion, volunteer coordination, and program evaluation. This is a grant funded two year limited duration position.
Read the Tigard position description and apply here.

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.


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!


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!