Increasing a child’s ability to safely walk and bicycle to school became a national priority when legislation was signed into law in August 2005 providing Federal funding for Safe Routes to School programs through each individual state’s Department of Transportation. The Federal law also called for a national clearinghouse, giving way to the establishment, in May 2006, of the National Center for Safe Routes to School. The National Center recognized the immediate need for quality information and set an ambitious start-up agenda to assist states in establishing their own Safe Routes to School programs.
The Federal Safe Routes to School program has grown by leaps and bounds during the last two years. Today, a strong network of State Coordinators and local program leaders, an engaged group of advocates and an increasing body of knowledge on “what works,” are helping the federal program come into its own. The diversified groups that have contributed to the growth of Safe Routes to School will work to ensure its long-term success in improving the lives of schoolchildren across the United States.
In the past year, the National Center for Safe Routes to School (NCSRTS) has focused on building capacity and strength in promoting the federal program, training new leaders, helping individual programs track results and evaluating current initiatives. The following is a summary of work done, in concert with our many partners, from July 2007 though June 2008.
The National Center for Safe Routes to School supports three basic objectives of the federal Safe Routes to School program:
- Enable and encourage children to walk and bicycle to school;
- Improve the safety of children walking and bicycling to school; and
- Facilitate projects and activities that will reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution near schools.
Our vision is for more children to safely walk or bicycle to school on a regular basis. Whether they are initiated through Federal, state or local funding sources, SRTS programs provide an opportunity to make walking and bicycling to school a safe and routine activity for future generations of schoolchildren. Our mission is to support SRTS programs in such a way that communities are motivated and able to sustain these programs beyond the extent of dedicated Federal funds.
As of June 2007, 29 states had announced funding for local or statewide SRTS activities and 686 schools were participating in federally funded SRTS programs. As of June 2008, 46 states announced local or statewide SRTS activities and 3,212 schools were participating in federally funded SRTS programs.
The work of the NCSRTS encompasses five core functions:
- This represents the National Center’s commitment to create capacity for the Federal Safe Routes to School program. This is accomplished through our web sites, online resource guide, tip sheets, listservs, and other means of communicating current information, research findings and best practices for audiences ranging from the general public to the SRTS state coordinators.
- The training function works hand in hand with technical assistance. The NCSRTS has developed a series of courses and instructor trainings to address the various training needs of the states and communities. The National Center has dedicated funds to provide two free trainings per state over a five year period.
- This encompasses the NCSRTS work to encourage demand for the SRTS programs and includes marketing targeted toward parents, students, schools, communities and state governments. At the heart of the marketing activities is our support for International Walk to School Day. The NCSRTS serves as national coordinator for U.S. events, and hosts the web site for the international movement.
- The National Center monitors the accomplishments of Safe Routes to School programs through quarterly reports that summarize how states are making progress, including numbers of schools funded and amounts of funding awarded. The National Center is also establishing tracking mechanisms to help the states measure the impact of Safe Routes to School programs.
- This function began with the development of a national database into which states and local programs are encouraged to enter their data. This effort was enhanced in January 2008 with additional funding to conduct research projects to evaluate the SRTS Federal program.
About the National Center for Safe Routes to School
The National Center for Safe Routes to School assists communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bicycle to school. The National Center is maintained by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.
The National Center for Safe Routes to School works in collaboration with a network of national organizations and experts from across the country. Partners in this effort include:
- American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
- America Walks
- Governor’s Highway Safety Association
- Institute of Transportation Engineers
- Toole Design Group