Health and Safe Routes to School

Safe Routes to School programs get kids physically active and take cars off the road. In the same time frame we have seen walking and bicycling to school decline from almost 50 percent to 13 percent, childhood obesity has tripled for children and adolescents. We need physical activity in the adult population as well as one-third of adults are obese. It has been shown that physically active adults are less likely to be diagnosed with chronic diseases.

If you need a few extra reasons to  start a Safe Routes to School program or host a Walk and Bike to School Day event, check out these statistics:

  • Walking one mile to and from school each day is two-thirds of the recommended sixty minutes of physical activity a day. Children who walk to school have higher levels of physical activity throughout the day.
  • Studies show that children who walk and bicycle to school are more physically active,  have lower body mass index scores,  and lower obesity levels   than students who are driven or bused to school.
  • A safety analysis by the California Department of Transportation estimated that the safety benefit of Safe Routes to School was up to a 49 percent decrease in the childhood bicycle and pedestrian collision rates.  From 2000-2006, 30% of traffic deaths for children ages 5-15 occurred while walking or bicycling.
  • Pedestrians are more than twice as likely to be struck by a vehicle in locations without sidewalks.  Sidewalks are often built with Safe Routes to School dollars.
  • Children exposed to traffic pollution are more likely to have asthma, permanent lung deficits, and a higher risk of heart and lung problems as adults.
  • Over the last 25 years, among children ages 5 to 14, there has been a 74 percent increase in asthma cases.   In addition, 14 million days of school are missed every year due to asthma. Schools that are designed so children can walk and bicycle have measurably better air quality.

More information and the sources for the above statistics are in our Safe Routes to School and Health handout. To register your school for Walk and Bike to School Day on October 3, 2012, visit the registration website.

How we keep Safe Routes to School funding

We are in a new funding environment under MAP-21, the new federal transportation bill that goes into effect on October 1st. Money for Safe Routes to School and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure has been combined into a smaller funding pot. The states can transfer the money to road uses and the money that comes to the regional level can also be used for road uses. But we can take action.

Learn how to show decision makers the importance of Safe Routes to School. Just announced is a new webinar: Engaging Policymakers: How Site Visits and Events Can Inspire Policy Change to Support Your Program.  The webinar will give examples and the how-to of creating an event that will show Safe Routes to School is vital to your community.

Registration is now open!


Virginia QuickStart grants announced

Virginia Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School program has announced QuickStart Mini-grants to fund your unique Walk to School Day or help jump start your Safe Routes to School program. Information and application is online but some of the details are below.

First round of applications are due September 6th in time for Walk to School Day funding. Afterwards, applications will be accepted on the rolling basis with grant awards announced monthly. 50 grants of $1,000 will be funded. The first $500 will be provided up front and $500 is reimbursable after activities are completed. Funds will be available ten days after the award. Title 1 schools are encouraged to apply and will be prioritized.

Not all information is required but examples of application information  includes:

  • Letter of support from school principal
  • School enrollment, estimate of students who already walk or bicycle, number of students living within 2 miles
  • Current Safe Routes to School activities and those planned
  • Activity goals and how they will be achieved
  • Number of students who will benefit
  • If or how you will include students with disabilities
  • Next steps for your Safe Routes to School program
  • List of items to be purchased with grant funds

This is a new idea for the Virginia Safe Routes to School program, please take advantage of this opportunity! The application is straight forward and should be easy to complete.

The Greater Washington region network wants to post your Safe Routes to School activities! Send us a blog post when they are complete and you can be a guest blogger on our website!



Takoma Park wins national recognition

The Takoma Park Safe Routes to School program has received special recognition from the James L. Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award Committee. Only three communities nationwide received special recognition!

We are proud that a Greater Washington community has been recognized for their hard work! Special congratulations to Safe Routes to School Coordinator Lucy Neher who has created a year round Safe Routes to School program that ensures kids are educated about safe walking and bicycling and makes it fun to walk and bicycle to school. The school year in Takoma Park culminates in a  Safe Routes to School 5K run which encourages kids and the community to be physically active, is a fundraiser and a community bonding event.

We have profiled the work in Takoma Park here on the blog. Check out our best practices section and story about elementary pedestrian education. Also,Takoma Park has a video about their Safe Routes to School 5K run.

Congratulations again to Takoma Park Safe Routes to School program!

We have numbers!

The internet has been buzzing about some great Safe Routes to School and walking and bicycling research. Here are a few resources and a quick synopsis of interesting facts.

Economic Benefits of Safe Routes to School Webinar
This is a recent webinar by the National Partnership. You can access the presentations and recordings at the link above. Some of the major takeaways:

  • Property values have increased due to trails in Indianapolis, Austin and Dallas.
  • Trains rank second among 18 community amenities in a 2002 home buyer survey.
  • A 5 to 10 mph reduction in traffic speeds increased adjacent residential property values by about 20 percent.
  • The cost of hospitalization, emergency room visits and treatment for children’s bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and injuries is 4.5 times what the federal government current spends each year on the Safe Routes to School program.
  • Using Safe Routes to School to eliminate hazard busing (busing students close enough to walk but environmental barriers make it unsafe) could save $1 billion/year.

Moving Forward: Safe Routes to School Progress in Five States
This report includes five states and 569 Safe Routes to School projects funded through April 2011. These projects reached more than 1,410 schools and 781,180 children—roughly 10 percent of the PK-8 grade public school population in the five states.

Among completed SRTS projects with before and after travel data:

  • Rates of walking increased by 45 percent (from 9.8 percent to 14 percent)
  • Rates of bicycling increased by 24 percent (from 2.5 percent to 3.0 percent)
  • All active travel to school increased by 37 percent (from 12.9 percent to 17.6 percent)

CDC Vital Signs Report on Walking                                                                                                                                                                              

This report compares data on adult walking from 2005 to 2010.

  • The percentage of people who report walking at least once for 10 minutes or more the previous week rose 6 percent.
  • Adults achieving the recommended amount of physical activity increased from 42.1 percent to 48 percent.

Evidence based strategies to increase physical activity include creating more places for physical activity with information and outreach that lets people know about the places and considering walkability in the community. The CDC also recommends Safe Routes to School programs to encourage both children and adults to walk.

Take a stand

Today, the Greater Washington region Safe Routes to School network is releasing the official platform. The platform is a statement of why we are working in this region, our goals and how we plan to accomplish those goals. The goal of the Greater Washington network is to increase physical activity through walking and bicycling to school and in daily life. If you agree, endorse the platform and we will list your name on our website. There are many reasons to join this effort.


Today, only 13 percent of students walk or bicycling to school compared with almost 50 percent in 1969. In the same time period, obesity for children ages 6-11 has quadrupled. Obese children are more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and are more likely to become obese adults. Experiencing a similar trend, two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese. Obesity related conditions include some of the leading causes of death such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.


In the Greater Washington region, 9% of trips are by walking or bicycling but pedestrians and bicyclists represent 27% of fatalities.

Its fun!

Wolfie’s Bike Train at Wolfrap Elementary in Fairfax County. Photo: Jeff Anderson

If you believe in increasing physical activity through walking and bicycling does and will continue to make a difference in your community, show your support. We invite organizations to official endorse the Greater Washington region Safe Routes to School network goals and work. Please use our simple form to sign-on and we will list your organization on our website.

To learn more about our accomplishments in the first half of the year and to learn more about how the Greater Washington network can work in your community, please see our mid-year report. To learn more about immediate opportunities for change in the region, please see our opportunities for action blog post.

Greater Washington Platform

How we can collaborate

The Greater Washington region Safe Routes to School network has been busy in 2012. We just released our official platform and we have a full mid-year report.  Hopefully, the examples of our work in the mid-year report will give you ideas of how we could work together in your community. A few highlights include:

  • Joined the Prince George’s County Place Matters team focused on healthy eating and active living policy; the Fairfax Partnership for Healthier Fairfax Environment and Infrastructure Strategic Issue Team and the Prince George’s County Healthcare Action Coalition. All coalitions have a focus to increase physical activity through policies that support a safe environment for walking and bicycling.
  • Compiled research and best practices for BikeArlington based on their Bike Culture meeting brainstorming focused on increasing the number of kids walking and bicycling to school.
  • Responded to a questionnaire as part of the Prince George’s County General Plan Update. Information will be used for a policy paper on food access and healthy communities.

Still need ideas? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Invite the Greater Washington network to present to your group about Safe Routes to School and policies that support walking and or bicycling presentation.
  • Submit an idea for a case studies that focuses on a policy or program that supports Safe Routes to School, walking and or bicycling in the region. See our other examples.
  • Use Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on the latest information. Contact the regional policy manager to be added to the email list.

Please see our mid-year report for a a full list of the Greater Washington region network’s work in 2012 and opportunities for action right now.  If you agree with our platform, please officially support the Greater Washington region network. Stay tuned for more to come!

Opportunities-New transportation bill

To advance Safe Routes to School and walking and bicycling in the region and in your community, highlight successes! International Walk to School Day on October 3rd is a great opportunities to invite the media, principals, school district staff and elected officials to show the benefits of walking and bicycling.

The new federal transportation bill, MAP-21 combines funding for Safe Routes to School and walking and bicycling infrastructure into one funding program called Transportation Alternatives. Transportation Alternatives also includes some road uses as eligible projects but decisions will be made as to what types of projects are prioritized for this funding. Transportation Alternatives should prioritize Safe Routes to School, walking and bicycling.

Regional Process

Half of the designated money for Safe Routes to School and walking and bicycling will go to the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO), in the Greater Washington region the MPO is the Transportation Planning Board staffed by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.  The bill states money will be distributed through a competitive grant process. While it is uncertain how this will work in our region, the money will be used. It is important to let the TPB members know that projects for Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking should be prioritized with this funding.

State Process

The other half of the designated money for Safe Routes to School and walking and bicycling will go to the state, again for a competitive grant process. However, the state can choose to direct some or all of the money to road uses. It is important to tell your state elected officials and state DOT that the money should be used for Safe Routes to School and walking and bicycling. Specifically:

  • Fully fund: All money should go to a competitive grant process with Safe Routes to School, walking and bicycling prioritized in the process.
  • Fully staff: State Safe Routes to School Coordinators and bike/pedestrian coordinator positions should be maintained.
  • Fully implement: Make Transportation Alternatives money available and award money to projects.

You can take action on Walk to School Day by inviting local and state elected officials and the media. Talk about why Safe Routes to School is important in your community and why it is important under the new federal transportation bill to fully fund, fully staff and fully implement. It is also important to involve school district staff and leadership to gain support for district-wide Safe Routes to School efforts.

Our Director Deb Hubsmith has more ideas on how to take action on her blog.

The Greater Washington region network will update you as the decision to use the new federal money moves forward. But it is important to lay the groundwork and let elected officials know we are thinking about it now. Since states and the District of Columbia still have existing Safe Routes to School money to spend, you will still see grant applications as we have seen in the past for a little longer. Take advantage of these funding opportunities and prepare for the next opportunity!

Support the Greater Washington Region Safe Routes to School Network

Safety and health are important to everyone. When a child can walk and bicycle to school, a community can walk and bicycle for trips, increasing daily physical activity.

Physically active communities are healthier and students perform better in the classroom.

In the Greater Washington region, 9 percent of trips are made by walking and bicycling but 27 percent of fatalities are bicyclists or pedestrians.

We do this work for those that choose to walk and bicycle and for those that do not have other options.

Read the Greater Washington network platform. If you agree with our work, please have your organization sign on and officially support increasing physical activity through safe walking and bicycling in the Greater Washington region.

Greater Washington Platform

Port Towns Youth Wellness Ambassadors recommend a community for bicycling and walking

I want to introduce you to some very impressive youth from the Port Towns in Prince George’s County. The Port Towns include the communities of Bladensburg, Colmar Manor, Cottage City and Edmonston. End Times Harvest Ministries second annual Youth Wellness Leadership Institute’s Wellness Ambassadors Leadership Program Summer Camp finale was this past Saturday at Port Towns Elementary School in Bladensburg. During the two hour program, thirty youth ages 10 to 17 taught the community about healthy eating, BMI, muscle groups and presented their findings from a community assessment of Route 450 in Bladensburg.

After an extensive audit of Route 450, the wellness ambassadors compiled a SWOT-strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats- analysis, wrote recommendations and even talked about what would have done with more time. Recommendations from the community assessment included putting bike lanes and bike racks along Route 450, increasing fresh and organic food options, incorporating green roofs into existing buildings, improving bus stops and installing signage which would direct people to historic places and the waterfront.

Bladensburg Mayor Walter James attended the presentation as well as Council Members Walter Ficklin and Walter George. Council Member George had attended several of the sessions with the wellness ambassadors including walking Route 450 during a community assessment. Mayor James was adamant that the report would not sit on a shelf but would be rolled into the Bladensburg Green Street initiative. The wellness ambassadors were invited to present at the next Council work session and invited to Prince George’s County Council to present their recommendations.

I was able to join the Wellness Ambassadors on one of the assessments. The assessment tool was very comprehensive covering all aspects of walking and bicycling, storm water drainage, green roofs and the number of people using the street. This group of students expanded on an existing tool from the previous year to ensure no stone was left unturned. All the photos from the walk are on our Facebook page.

There is increasing a willingness to bring youth to the table. After all, they are part of the community and often use the streets as pedestrians and bicyclists. After working with this group on the community assessment and seeing their flawless presentations, it is obvious why youth should be at the table. They provide a valuable perspective and their excitement is contagious. There is something very powerful about youth taking a real interest in their community and making policy recommendations. I know I left re-energized and ready to take on the world-or the Greater Washington region.