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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
In Japan, 98 percent of children walk to school.
In the United States, only 13 percent do.
It’s time for a change.
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!
Provide input on Safe Routes to School in March & April to have your say
Fixing Our Streets is a locally-funded street repair and traffic safety initiative that will bring much needed street improvement and safety projects to neighborhoods across Portland. It is expected to provide approximately $8 million for school neighborhood improvements along walking and biking routes to school — around $500,000 dedicated to each High School cluster (including the elementary and middle schools that feed into a particular high school).
Tell them what you think needs to happen around the schools to make walking and rolling to school safer and easier. Portland’s robust Safe Routes to School team hasn’t ever had this much money to spend on safety projects around schools, and now is the time to weigh in — especially if you access a school in the Portland Public (PPS), Parkrose, David Douglas, Reynolds, or Centennial School Districts.
If your student attends a PPS or Parkrose school, you can attend an Open House event to provide input (see schedule below). For David Douglas, Centennial, and Reynolds schools within Portland city limits, Portland’s Safe Routes to School staff will be organizing engagement opportunities at your schools – learn more: bit.ly/OpenHouseSRTS.
HOW TO GET YOUR VOICE HEARD
- Attend a SRTS Fixing Our Streets Open House (see dates below)
- Attend a Walk Audit with SRTS (specific schools in Wilson Cluster only)
- Attend a Walk Audit with Oregon Walks (specific Title I schools in PPS only)
‐ visit OregonWalks.org/HealthyTravel2School for details
- Submit specific concerns at saferoutespdx.org (for PPS schools only)
- Host a pop‐up open house at your school to collect comments from parents
(SRTS will provide the materials!)
If you are, or want to be, working with Russian- or Spanish-speaking communities* and need basic resources to start a conversation and let community members know more about Safe Routes to School, please feel free to download and use our Safe Routes to School Primer translations!
The Primer is a great conversation starter, guide, or leave-behind. Learn more about Safe Routes to School, including essential elements to consider when establishing a program and helpful statistics on the many benefits of Safe Routes to School in your community.
Un manual sobre las rutas seguras a la escuela
Краткое руководство по реализации программы Safe Routes to School
Safe Routes to School Primer
*Best practice for community outreach involves more than just translated materials. Be sure to go where your community is, don’t ask them to come to you. It is vital to translate documents and have translation at meetings in communities with populations of non-English speakers. Think about how to reach non-native speakers beforehand, including use of radio and community newspapers. [Adapted from FRESC: http://fresc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Best-Practices-for-Community-Engagement.pdf%5D