California dedicates 1/3 of safety money to Safe Routes to Schools

California dedicates 1/3 of its "safety set-aside" to Safe Routes to Schools programs.

Currently Missouri dedicates 0.3% (yes, that is 0 POINT 3 percent, 1/100 the amount California dedicates) of its safety set-aside for any bicycle or pedestrian-related activity. And this, despite the fact that around 5-10% of roadway injuries and deaths in Missouri are bicyclists and pedestrians.

Even the $22 million per year California spends on Safe Routes to Schools is not nearly enough--as you can see in this description of the details on the California program from Deb Hubsmith:
On Safe Routes to School funding,YES -- the State of California has now voted in 1999, 2001, and 2004 (just approved last month for the next five years) to dedicate 1/3 of the safety set-aside to Safe Routes to Schools. This amounts to about $22 million/year for Safe Routes to School projects in California. While this sounds like a lot of money, the demand is actually much greater. For the five years that this program has been in existance, the State has received over $130 million in qualified requests for funding each year from local agencies to build projects such as bike lanes, pathways, sidewalks, and to conduct traffic calming to improve safety. Thus, even with that level of funding, only 1 in 6 applications gets funded.

The California State funding is primarily for use on infrastructure projects, and a local city or county must apply. The jurisdiction may use up to 10% of the funds for "educational" programs; however, in the five years this program has been in existance, we have not seen local jurisdictions taking advantage of this provision. I believe that this is mostly because successful educational efforts in California has taken place across many school jurisdictions and have crossed city boundaries to provide countywide approaches (not just school by school).

For example, in Marin County we have been running a Safe Routes to Schools educational program since the fall of 2000. Now in its fifth year, the program includes 35 schools, which is about half of the schools in the County. The program began as a grassroots effort by the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, and has grown into a County sponsored program. Currently, the MCBC is operating Safe Routes to Schools under a contract from the County of Marin (so we still handle the day to day operations). The County also has hired a Safe Routes to Schools engineer (David Parisi) to work with parents to assess engineering issues and develop "Safe Streets Plans" to prioritize projects for implementation. The engineer also helps the local jurisdications to prepare applications for the State's capital funding.

Over the years, we have received funding from several sournces to run the important educational program. Currently the program is funded through a grant to the County from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. In the past, the County also used Transportation Enhancements funds (using the educational provision) to fund the Safe Routes educational program. The local Community Foundation has also supported it, as have other foundations (which were not interested in supporting the bike coalitions other efforts). We were lucky enough to get our first boost of funding through being selected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to create a demonstration program for Safe Routes (during the 2000-2001 school year), which resulted in the Safe Routes to School Toolkit. See www.saferoutestoschools.org.

The Safe Routes to Schools educational program does many things including training parents on how to be advocates for their children to walk and bike to school safely. The program runs walk and roll to school days, teaches bicycle and pedestrian safety as part of physical education classes, runs special events and contests, sponsors after school bike clubs, and creates a general groundswell of mainstream focus and support for our goals of creating a safe non-motorized environment for children and everyone. Right now we are working with the League of American Bicyclists to pilot test their new on-the-bike curriculum with sixth grades. The pilot program has been a huge success. It is very popular. Kudos to LAB and NHTSA for creating this program.

Through the work of the Safe Routes engineer and the parents, our local jurisdictions have been able to identify the best projects to seek capital funding from the State of California's infrastructure program. In addition, because many infrastructure needs are so pressing (and the funds from the State are so competitive), many local cities have chosen to use some general fund money to make "quick fix" improvements for the school commute such as improved signage, striping, other maintenance or timing of traffic lights. This support from cities is also largely related to the huge constituency that has developed (especially the parents) and the City Council's desires to respond to local voters.

Last month, the MCBC and Parisi Associates held a Safe Routes to Schools training in Marin which was attended by 26 people from around the United States. Wendi Kallins (our Safe Routes program director) and David Parisi (Safe Routes engineer) also do workshops around the nation to help local communities get started with Safe Routes to School.

Good luck with your efforts, and hopefully within the year we'll see a federal transportation bill that includes funds for both education and infrastructure related to Safe Routes to Schools.

Yours truly,

Deb Hubsmith, Executive Director
Marin County Bicycle Coalition