Safe Routes to School program, as required by the recently passed Federal Transportation Bill - SAFETEA-LU - is intended to benefit children in primary and middle schools (K-8). Safe Routes to School (SR2S) is about kids walking and biking to school: regularly, routinely, and safely. SR2S integrates elements of transportation, economics, health and physical activity, environmental awareness and safety into one program.
The Vermont SR2S program will provide support in the form of funding and services to participating schools around the state. Schools will evaluate existing conditions and attitudes, actively encourage walking and bicycling by students and will identify infrastructure projects to make walking and bicycling safer. The Vermont SR2S program is being coordinated with other statewide initiatives such as the VT Department of Health Obesity Prevention Plan and the Fit and Healthy Kids program.
Why is it Important?
Nationwide, in one generation, the number of children walking or bicycling to school has dropped from over 70% to less than 15%. Nowadays many school systems offer widespread school-bus transport; at the same time, as many as 50% of school kids are routinely driven to school by their parents. In Vermont, this number can be as high as 65%.
The results have been costly both in dollars and our health.
School transportation operating costs in the U.S. exceed $14 billion annually - the 2nd biggest element of the school budget, behind salaries.
More than 1/3 of our school-aged kids are overweight or obese
Obesity rates have risen sharply over the last fifteen years - the results of poor diet and a lack of physical activity.
Obesity related illnesses in Vermont alone result in estimated medical expenditures of $141 million per year.
One of the best opportunities to address this obesity epidemic is to increase regular, routine physical activity like walking or bicycling to school.
The program supports an initial survey of parents and students attitudes and behavior towards walking and bicycling. Traffic data will be collected, as well as mapping of sidewalks, crosswalks, paths, and bike facilities that provide access to the school. Children will be educated on bicycling and walking safety, and there will be activities to encourage greater levels of walking and bicycling. Needed infrastructure improvements will also be identified. Coordination with law enforcement officials and other town officials will facilitate the segway into the second year when feasibility studies and construction projects funding will be available.
In our Region, Barstow School in Chittenden and Fair Haven Grade School received the first grants to participate in the Program. Working with the assistance of the RRPC, each school’s Safe Routes to School Team of school officials, nurses, PE teachers and principals, town officials, parents, and other interested organizations and people focused on education and encouragement, including holding events to achieve these. Both schools received bike racks through the Program.
The second year, both schools received grants for infrastructure improvements- bulb outs and signs in Fair Haven and a sidewalk feasibility study in Chittenden.
Poultney, Proctor and Rutland City schools were successful in their grant applications and have started their programs.
For more information on this, please contact Kitt at 802-775-0871.