Safe Routes to School Through Safe Communities: Results of a Community Planning Grant Program in California

California’s Safe Routes to School (SR2S) initiatives are based on an international movement aimed at increasing safe walking and bicycling to school. Since the 1970s, there has been a dramatic reduction in children walking or bicycling to school. Instead, school children are being driven, primarily in private automobiles, which contribute to increases in local traffic-related injuries and death, traffic congestion and air pollution. In addition, these children are also losing an opportunity to be physically active, which contributes to increases in obesity, diabetes and asthma—chronic diseases that are currently seen at higher rates and younger ages than ever before. And, unfortunately, those children who still do walk and ride their bikes often face a very inhospitable environment. This lack of environmental support for physical activity thereby increases the children’s risk of pedestrian and bicyclist injury, among the leading causes of death for youth in California. The Safe Routes to School through Safe Communities planning grant project was implemented in 2000- 2002. Eight communities of varying size across California were awarded $25,000 over a 17-month grant period. The local projects were responsible for: 1) developing a broad-based, community coalition in order to foster community ownership; and 2) developing a strategic plan for the implementation of interventions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Safe Communities model, which uses an informed community-based planning approach, guided project staff in their coalition and plan development. A qualitative program evaluation was conducted to measure the grantee’s success in meeting these objectives. Each of the eight grantees was successful to varying degrees at meeting the two broad objectives. Grantees felt that acquisition and appropriate use of data; diverse and flexible coalitions; and the attainment of resources and political will were key elements in a project’s success. Awareness of each coalition member’s constraints and offerings was important, as was sensitivity to the needs and capabilities of schools and community members. Community visibility and patience were essential. Some components of the planning grant projects continued in nearly all the eight communities after the grant period ended. Several sites successfully acquired operating funds from another source and/or found another entity to host the coalition. Project staff felt that successful relationships had been built with city staff, leading to funding for pedestrian and bicyclist safety projects as well as opportunities for SR2S to thrive in the future. It was concluded that SR2S can promote physical activity, safety, sustainable transportation practices, and a sense of community. The Safe Routes to School through Safe Communities grant program was an experiment in providing people the financial support to develop strategic plans to improve the neighborhoods around schools for children to walk and bicycle more, and safely. This grant program successfully demonstrated that even a small amount of financial support goes a long way in allowing communities the time to stop, think, and work together toward the best solutions for a safe and active community in the future.

Language

  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: CD-ROM
  • Features: References;
  • Pagination: 12p
  • Monograph Title: Tools of the Trade: 9th National Conference on Transportation Planning for Small and Medium-Sized Communities, September 22-24, 2004, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01043973
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, TRB
  • Created Date: Mar 9 2007 1:33PM