Safe Routes to School in the Pacific Northwest

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To advance safe walking and bicycling to and from schools; to improve the health and well-being of kids of all races, income levels, and abilities; and to foster the creation of healthy communities for everyone.

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 areas, we support walking and bicycling policies and funding within communities, to create places 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.

Oregon’s New Transportation Bill Includes Ongoing Dedicated Funding for Safe Routes to School

We’re beyond pleased to announce that the 2017 Oregon Legislature passed a state transportation funding plan that invests in a cleaner, healthier transportation system to provide safer options for Oregonians, however they travel. We applaud our Oregon leaders for making adjustments to the bill that allowed the Legislature to approve it and move Oregon forward with a transportation plan that will create more affordable and healthy travel options for Oregonians across the state.

In addition to a massive investment in transit and trails of more than $100 million each year, and a sensible focus on “fix-it-first” maintenance funding for our roadways and bridges, new funding from the bill will provide $10 million annual investment for Safe Routes to School street safety improvements – bumping up to $15 million annual investment in perpetuity starting in 2022. This funding is for safety projects to improve safety for people walking and biking in the 1-mile radius of schools (commonly known as the “walk zone”). This level of ongoing, dedicated investment for school travel safety — and the positive impacts it will have on the health and safety of our communities — is unprecedented in Oregon, and will ensure more and more youth in Oregon can safely walk and roll to school and in their communities.

This is a big step in the right direction for the hundreds of thousands of students in Oregon who currently live within their school’s 1-mile walk zone. These students do not typically have a school bus pick them up, and many also do not currently have a safe walking route to their school. We know that lower income communities tend to also be the communities that are under-invested in transportation safety; these communities are at risk from traffic exposure on a daily basis. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership advocated for outright prioritization of these communities for funding during the legislative session, and though we did not see that in the final bill, we are still glad to see Title I schools have been prioritized for street safety investments with a lower matching funds requirement (20% vs 40%), which may result in a de facto prioritization.

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Inter-generational Walking Project: Stephens Middle School and Center 50+

Through a partnership with AARP-Oregon and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, Inter-generational Safe Streets Challenge recipient Just Walk Salem Keizer worked with Stephens Middle School in Salem, Oregon. Here’s their exciting success story. 

In collaboration with Just Walk Salem Keizer, OSU Extension Service, and Salem Leadership Foundation, students at Stephens Middle School and volunteers from Center 50+ (senior center) conducted an inter-generational walking project in support of the Inter-generational Safe Streets Challenge.

The project engaged twenty-three students from the Stephens Middle School leadership class and 8 volunteers from Center 50+. Students were divided into six groups, with at least one adult volunteer in each group. Over eight sessions, students worked with the volunteers to develop their route, cross-check the route with the Walkable America Walkability Checklist, make changes, cross-check again, and then finalize the route. A total of six routes were developed. Students shared their routes and experiences in a presentation to peers and stakeholders on May 23, 2017. Eight students, representing four groups, were invited to share their presentation with transportation planners from Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments (June 8, 2017) and Salem City Council (June 12, 2017).

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Inter-generational Project: Crooked River Walking School Buses

Through a partnership with AARP-Oregon and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, Inter-generational Safe Streets Challenge recipient Crook County Public Health worked with Crooked River Elementary School in Prineville, Oregon. Here’s their exciting success story. 

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Want to learn more about how to set up a Walking School Bus in your community? Read our guide Step by Step: How to Start a Walking School Bus at Your School

This spring, Crook County Public Health offered four Walking School Bus routes every Wednesday morning for students of Crooked River Elementary, from spring break to the end of school (a total of 10 weeks). Abby Leibowitz, the AmeriCorps VISTA running the program, did significant outreach to the school community, and found that talking face-to-face with families seemed to be the most effective way of explaining and publicizing the program.

Abby posted fliers throughout town, presented during Senior Center lunches, contacted retired police officers and teachers, encouraged local community leaders to spread the word, and recruited school parents who had previously volunteered. In all, she recruited a total of 8 consistent volunteers and 3 substitute volunteers, 6 of whom were older adults. All volunteers underwent a background check and a one-hour training about the many benefits of walking to school, program logistics, volunteer & participant expectations, and pedestrian safety.

Each week, 15-30 total students participated, and even caught the attention of local media: Crooked River Elementary students who live close to their school may hop on a Walking School Bus once a week.

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Our analysis: Oregon ‘Transportation Package’ misses the crosswalk on Safe Routes to School funding

Last week, the Oregon Legislature released the long-awaited transportation package in bill form, as House Bill (HB) 2017 (note: 298 pages!). We are pleased to see the Oregon Legislature dedicate funding in HB 2017 to ensure more youth in Oregon can safely walk and roll to school. This is a step in the right direction for the hundreds of thousands of students in Oregon who currently live within their school’s 1-mile walk zone but do not have a safe route to their school, nor a program to support and encourage their safe and active school transportation.

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Oregon Safe Routes to School

However, as HB 2017’s Section 123, the section that deals with Safe Routes to School funding, is currently written, we are gravely concerned that:

  • The youth who need a safe route to school the most will be prevented from receiving one at all. Low-Income, Title I schools do not have the funds to match 40% — or even 25% — of a safety improvement project, and not all cities or towns have policies in place that prioritize those low-income schools that typically have the most street safety needs.
  • If only 1/4-mile infrastructure improvements are made, we will continue to see unsafe road situations on primary walking routes around schools. School ‘walk zones’ for elementary students are one mile from school — these students have no yellow school bus and often no additional transportation support from the school.
  • Schools with improved walking routes will not realize the full potential travel mode shift because there is no funding in this bill to support the related Safe Routes to School education and encouragement programming.
  • When the funding sunsets in 10 years, only a fraction of schools will have received any safety benefits, and those that do will only see partial (1/4) benefit. Related traffic safety, air quality, and youth obesity and health concerns will continue, as high numbers of students who live within walking distance are likely to continue to be driven in a private vehicle — until schools and families see true safety investments in place.

We are disappointed to see the language in HB 2017 for Safe Routes to School is significantly weaker than that of HB 3230 (PDF), which already passed out of the House Committee on Transportation earlier this session.

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Get Salem Moving!

It’s a wrap: Building an Active & Age-Friendly Transportation Network

May 24, Salem, OR – The National Partnership, with support from AARP Oregon, Kaiser Permanente, Oregon’s Transportation & Growth Management Program, and the City of Salem, brought two walkability workshops to the City of Salem, Oregon. Following an introduction from Salem’s Mayor Bennett, two dozen staff from the city, county, regional and state government joined a walking audit around downtown Salem with nationally-renowned walking expert Dan Burden, best known for his work with Walk Score. Mr Burden then led the staff in a mapping exercise on how to build walkability into the city’s existing and future plans and make Salem a more walkable destination.

 

That same evening, more than 30 community members joined us at the Center 50+, a community center for older adults, for a walking audit through the nearby neighborhood. Mr. Burden gave a short presentation on how the community can support and encourage the city’s efforts toward walkability, and answered questions about how individuals can help build an active & age-friendly transportation network in Salem.

Pacific Northwest Regional Policy Manager Kari Schlosshauer will continue to work with leaders in Salem to support family-friendly transportation projects such as the proposed Maple-Winter Bikeway that connect the community with safe, healthy travel options to get to where they need to go, and make Salem a more walkable, livable community for people of all ages and abilities. Learn more and get involved by contacting our staff in the Pacific Northwest.

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Borrow The Slow Way Home film

In Japan, 98 percent of children walk to school.

In the United States, only 13 percent do.

It’s time for a change.

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The documentary The Slow Way Home looks at how students travel to school in Japan & US, considers why so few kids in the U.S. walk to school, and asks what WE can do to change that. It also features students, families, and local celebrities from Milwaukie, Oregon City, and Portland, OR!

Would you like to screen this film for a group of people in your area, your organization, or just watch it with your family? We have a copy of the film and would be more than happy to lend it to you — just fill out this borrowing form and we’ll get you on the list!

 

Public Comment: Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)

Salem Keizer Area Transportation Study (SKATS) invites you to review and comment on the FY 2018-2023 TIP – how transportation dollars can be spent over the next six years on transit, roadways, and bike and pedestrian facilities.

Comments on the TIP will be accepted until April 11, 2017. A public hearing is scheduled on April 25, 2017. 

Public Hearing for the SKATS Draft FY 2018-2023 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and Air Quality Conformity Determination (AQCD).

Date: April 25, 2017
Time: Noon
Where: 100 High Street SE, Suite 200, Salem, OR 97301

Send comments to: Karen Odenthal 503-540-1608 or kodenthal@mwvcog.org

More information, including an interactive map, and the opportunity to comment online, can be found on the MWVCOG website.

Below are the proposed Bicycle and Pedestrian Projects for the 2018-2023 TIP: Continue reading