A bipartisan Minnesota Legislature working group dedicated to reducing childhood obesity has given efforts to provide infrastructure funding for the Minnesota Safe Routes to School Program (SRTS) a significant boost.
The Childhood Obesity Legislative Working Group (COLWG) endorsed legislation that will provide infrastructure funding for SRTS as an important tool that will help to reduce childhood obesity. The legislation, introduced by State Senator Melisa Franzen and State Representative Melissa Hortman, would support SRTS with $6 million in bonding for infrastructure, including sidewalks and improved pedestrian crossings. Governor Mark Dayton has included infrastructure funding for the Minnesota SRTS program in his proposed bonding package.
“We know that exercise and diet are key factors that will determine whether a child will be obese or not. Therefore, it’s critically important that we make tools available to positively impact those factors in Minnesota,” said Rep. Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake), co-chair of the Working Group.
SRTS is designed to make it easier and safer for students to walk and bike to school. Walking one mile to and from school each day equals two‐thirds of the recommended level of physical activity per day. In addition, studies have found a strong correlation between physical activity and students’ academic performance.
“The endorsement by the Childhood Obesity Legislative Working Group is a huge boost for efforts to provide infrastructure funding for the Minnesota Safe Routes to School Program. It demonstrates bipartisan support for the measure and it directly links Safe Routes as one of the means to reduce childhood obesity,” said Rachel Callanan, regional vice president of advocacy for the American Heart Association
Not only does the existing Federal Safe Routes to School Program inadequately fund the infrastructure safety needs of Minnesota’s school students, the current program is being phased out. In the last federal funding cycle, the Minnesota Department of Transportation received 63 applications from localities requesting $15 million for SRTS infrastructure but only $6.7 million was available through the federal program.
Recognizing these shortfalls, as well as the important safety, health and educational benefits of SRTS, in 2012 the Minnesota Legislature established a state-based SRTS program, and in 2013 provided $500,000 in funding for non-infrastructure needs such as planning, mapping and training. However, there is still a need to fund the infrastructure grants portion of Minnesota’s SRTS program—grants that will be used to help fund sidewalks, improved road crossings and other needed infrastructure.
Providing funding for infrastructure grants under the Minnesota SRTS program is strongly supported by a broad coalition of health, education and parent organizations. The organizations include the American Heart Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Minnesota School Boards Association, Allina Hospitals & Clinics, American Cancer Society, Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, Minnesota PTA, BLEND, Children’s Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota, and dozens of others.
Here are a few ways YOU can help…
- Share this SRTS Article with your networks and on your social media sites. Spread the word about the bill and the great work happening at the Capitol to address childhood obesity!
- Lobby legislators for SRTS funding in the bonding bill on April 2nd. American Heart Association volunteers will be meeting in the morning at the Kelly Inn (just a block from the Capitol building) to be trained in on the issue and tips on “how to lobby”. We schedule meetings with your legislators for the afternoon and you’ll visit with legislators along with others in your Senate/House district. This is a great opportunity to get over to the capitol to lobby on something you are passionate about—keeping kids safe and healthy! Register here for this free event.
- Stay Connected! For updates on the Minnesota Safe Routes to School Campaign, stay connected on Facebook, visit https://www.facebook.com/SafeRoutesToSchoolMinnesota.
Many of us have heard the famous quote from the Field of Dreams movie “If you build it, he will come.” Yes, the movie is based on a baseball diamond and personal dreams rather than active living – but, the message is very intriguing…masses of people drawn to a recreational venue for the purpose of play….hmmm.
The BLEND mission supports efforts and programs like Safe Routes to School (SRTS) to help create more walkable, healthy and active communities. We know if communities build sidewalks, children and families are more likely to walk and bicycle on them and be more active on a regular basis. It’s unfair to expect and encourage children to be more physically active without providing them opportunities and safe ‘built’ environments to incorporate exercise into their daily routines.
Help us build our “Field of Dreams”
A new calendar year brings another legislative session in Minnesota. Lawmakers are already hard at work gearing up for the 2014 session and Governor Dayton is in the midst of putting the finishing touches on his bonding bill.
Today, advocates around Minnesota are coming together to show their support for active living and Minnesota’s Safe Routes to School program. Advocates will be asking Governor Dayton to include $6 million in state bonding dollars to be used for infrastructure such as sidewalks and improved crossings. YOU can influence what Governor Dayton includes in his bonding bill. Yes, YOU can! It’s easy – just click on the link below and follow the simple steps!
Please take a minute and send a message to Governor Dayton. Ask him to include Safe Routes to School infrastructure funding in his bonding bill. Funding a Minnesota Safe Routes to School Program (SRTS) will increase the safety and health of Minnesota children who walk and bike to school. The federally funded program, established in 2005, has funded just 1 in 5 of the grant requests in Minnesota. There is still a need to fund the infrastructure grants portion in Central Minnesota’s SRTS program for sidewalks, improved road crossings, and other needed infrastructure.
Share, Ask, and Learn…
Please share this blog post with your family, friends and neighbors and ask them to send a message to Governor Dayton! Simply email, Tweet, Facebook, or make a phone call.
Read this flyer to learn more about Safe Routes to School in Minnesota. And, follow the BLEND blogs and read the new 3-2-B blog series by Dawn Moen, BLEND Safe Routes to School Program Specialist. Dawn shares information about BLEND’s SRTS initiative and will include THREE easy actions you can take TO BE healthier and more active as a family.
Do you remember walking to and from school, uphill, both ways in the snow? We sure do! Unfortunately, most of today’s children won’t be able to pass on this memory to their children because they aren’t walking to or from school. 43% of kids who live less than a mile from their school are driven to and from school each day.
Safe Routes to School in MN
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a national and international movement to create safe, convenient, and fun opportunities for children to bicycle and walk to and from schools. The goal of the program is to get more kids walking and biking to school, which can play a critical role in reversing the alarming nationwide trend toward childhood obesity and inactivity.
State legislation, SF 1439/HF 1429, would help Minnesota build the infrastructure needed to give more children the choice to bike or walk to school. Watch the video to learn more.
Studies show that children who walk and bicycle to school are more physically active, have lower body mass index scores, lower obesity levels and are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than students who are driven or bused to school.
It’s unfair to expect and encourage children to be more physically active without providing them an opportunity and safe environment to incorporate exercise into their daily routines. Read more about Safe Routes to School.
The Safe Routes to School bills (SF 1439/HF 1429) would allow for the sale and issuing of $3 million in bonds for capital investment towards walking/biking infrastructure improvements. In the last federal funding cycle MNDOT received 82 applications from local schools requesting $23 million but only $3.8 million was available and awarded to 16 applicants through the federal program.
Get Connected – Join the You’re the Cure network to get connected with your legislators and ask them to support active children with Safe Routes to School.
Voice Your Concern – Join other advocates speak with MN legislators in a strong, unified voice about the importance of fighting heart disease and stroke. On Tuesday, February 12, 2013 (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.) – the American Heart Association is hosting their 2013 Minnesota Heart on the Hill event at the State Capitol. Attend workshops and training and then put your skills to the test when you meet with your state legislators. Breakfast and lunch included. No cost to attend but advance registration is required.
Advocate for AHA’s Policy Agenda, which includes:
- Screening newborns for critical congenital heart defects
- Promoting physical activity and better nutrition to reduce heart disease across MN.
This includes supporting active children through Safe Routes to School.
Register online for the 2013 Heart on the Hill!! Register by phone at: 952-278-7934 by Friday, February 1, 2013.
The content of this blog has been adapted from the AHA – Advocacy in MN website.
Angie Stenson is the Senior Transportation Planner at the St. Cloud Area Planning Organization (APO). The APO is the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the St. Cloud area and conducts transportation planning activities for all modes including transit, bicycle, and pedestrian. Ms. Stenson graduated from the University of Illinois with a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning and is an alumna of North Dakota State University. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).
On May 9, 2012 MnDOT announced Safe Routes to School (SRTS) grant recipients of federal funds totaling $768,000. The program will support 92 Minnesota schools, funding non-infrastructure and planning activities. Oak Hill Community School in St. Cloud is among the awardees. Oak Hill is one of 70 schools in 35 communities statewide to receive support for completion of a SRTS plan. The planning assistance grant will help the school gather information on existing conditions, gather public input, and identify potential infrastructure and non-infrastructure solutions to promote bicycling and walking to school.
Safe Routes to School is a program created through federal legislation in the 2005 federal transportation bill (SAFETEA-LU). The main purpose of the program is to increase opportunities for children to safely walk and bicycle to school. It also seeks to address the current social issue of childhood obesity and inactivity. In addition, SRTS can lead to community benefits such as decreases in traffic congestion issues and motor vehicle emissions.
At the core of SRTS are the 5 E’s: Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation. This promotes a balanced approach to the implementation of the program. This funding cycle included solicitation for non-infrastructure and planning funds only, meaning no infrastructure projects were awarded. Since 2005, however, the majority of funding, $9.9 million, has been awarded for infrastructure projects.
Non-infrastructure and planning activities are a vital part of the SRTS program as a whole. The importance of the new, concrete sidewalk or the smooth, asphalt multi-use path installation is visibly understood by most, but the underlying factors of education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation can be more difficult to validate. This funding cycle MnDOT allocated funding for planning assistance as well as non-infrastructure projects including walking and bicycling maps, support for crossing guard programs, bicycle safety programs (during and after school), and various encouragement activities such as a “Walking School Bus”. These programs are activity based and go hand-in-hand with the development of new infrastructure.
In the case of Oak Hill, the planning process is valuable because no clear, common-sense solution directly addresses the primary goal of increasing opportunities for children to safely walk and bicycle to the school. Existing conditions, opportunities, and scenarios will be explored through the combination of community input and technical expertise (SRTS grant). The objective of the process will be to provide a plan for pedestrian infrastructure improvements in and around the school, and it will stress ways to bolster bicycle and pedestrian safety education as well as encouragement programs. If you are a parent or staff member at Oak Hill, look for opportunities to get involved in the SRTS planning beginning this fall.
Do you have an interest in bicycle and pedestrian issues beyond the SRTS program? The St. Cloud Area Planning Organization (APO) has a venue for you to share your ideas or concerns. The APO Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee consists of community members and officials who meet to discuss relevant and ongoing bicycle and pedestrian topics in the metropolitan area. Please contact me if you would like more information.
A Picture Worth 1,000 Words
Before looking at the picture to the right – read the following definitions…
SAFE [seyf] – adjective, “free from harm or risk”
ROUTE [root, rout] – noun, ”a way or course taken in getting from a starting point to a destination”
Now, take a close look at the picture…does this look like a “safe route” – free from harm on a given path? Would you walk or bike on this road? How about let your child walk or bike to school on this road?
How many of you have seen or encountered streets that simply don’t accommodate users besides automobiles? Tell us your story!
Funding Support for SRTS
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a national and international movement dedicated to create safe and convenient ways for children to walk and bike to and from school. The program is funded as part of the federal transportation allocation which provides State DOT’s funding to allow schools to make improvements to the routes children use to walk and bike to school. Safe Routes Minnesota, administered by MNDOT, provides grants to school districts and local units of government. In the last federal funding cycle MNDOT received 82 applications from local schools requesting $23 million but only $3.8 million was available and awarded to 16 applicants through the federal program.
With more dollars in grant requests than MNDOT is able to fund, a group of organizations have come together in support of a state-funded SRTS program to allow for even more investment in walking and biking improvements. SF 1439 / HF 1429 would allow an allocation of $3 million in the 2012 Bonding Bill to MNDOT to create a state Safe Routes to School program in fiscal years 2013 and 2014. BikeMN, Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Coalition of Greater MN Cities, MN School Boards Assn, and Am. Academy of Pediatrics are among the many supporters.
Do you support SRTS? Contact your legislator today and ask them to vote in support of a state-funded SRTS program!