Safe Route to School Conference 2011

Early bird registration ($50 discount!) deadline is Friday, June 17, 2011.

The 3rd National Safe Routes to School Conference takes place August 16 – 18, 2011. Here’s why cycling advocates should go.

In the 1960s, half of all kids walked or biked to school, while only 5 percent were driven in personal vehicles. Today, the numbers are nearly reversed, with dramatic impacts not only children’s well-being, but also on community health, public safety and environmental concerns such as traffic congestion and auto emissions.

State and Federal Safe Routes to School (SR2S) programs began in earnest a little over a decade ago, with the real impetus occurring after Federal legislation funded a national Safe Routes program in 2005. Every U.S. state now has a SR2S program.

Safe Routes programs are administered by the state DOT. Local communities and schools compete for Safe Routes grants. These Safe Routes programs are initiated at the local level by parents and other concerned individuals just like you. Safe Routes is a proven, effective way to increase the number of children traveling to school on foot and by bike and reducing the daily school traffic jam.

How can YOU be involved with Safe Routes?

The majority of Safe Routes funds are designated for infrastructure, which can include things like crosswalks, bike paths, bike bridges, lighted street crossings, and even sidewalks and curb ramps.

I’ve seen the biggest bang for the buck in non-infrastructure projects, especially in areas where a school is already easily accessible to students. Federal law mandates that between 10% and 30% of Safe Routes spending must be for ‘non-infrastructure’ projects. Possible uses for this funding includes cycling safety education for students and teachers, and “Bike To School” promotion efforts. I’ve seen SR2S funds used to pay for teacher in-service training, to purchase incentives for children to ride their bikes to school, and to pay LCIs for their time in teaching school staff and children.

As a parent, concerned community member, or cycling advocate, you can initiate the process by identifying good projects for your school. Work with your school’s PTA / PTO. Get in good with the school administrators and with your local government public works or transportation department. They’re experienced in writing grant requests, but they need to know the community are interested in school transportation issues. These people get nasty-grams all the time, so if you can give a positive solution along with potential funding, many of them will become your best friend.

At the National Safe Routes Conference, learn how to strengthen your ability to influence the institutions, social norms and communities that shape the success of the SRTS movement. If you have interest in the topic, consider going to the conference.

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