Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe Joins Walk-to-School Event During Weight of the State Conference

We had a great time last week at the 2015 Weight of the State Conference in Richmond, Virginia. Hundreds of attendees came together to focus on battling childhood obesity through changes in nutrition and physical activity, including a panel on Fire up your Feet, which featured panelists from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and Let’s Move! Active Schools.

Fire up your Feet Event in Henrico CountyBut the highlight of the conference for us was joining Virginia’s First Lady, Dorothy McAuliffe along with hundreds of parents and students for a Walk-to-School event at Ridge Elementary School and Tuckahoe Middle School in Henrico County. Mrs. McAuliffe has made childhood nutrition her key focus as the First Lady of the Commonwealth, and her attendance highlighted the important role physical activity plays in childhood health.

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership, along with our partners on the Fire up your Feet panel, led a number of conference attendees to see the incredible momentum behind this event. Often times, the catalyst for change in our own communities comes from seeing first-hand the positive effects these movements are having on our neighboring communities. We hope our friends at the conference will take home the excitement of this event and push for healthier, active kids back home.

For more on the Walk-to-School event, check out this great video taken by WTVR.

Greater Washington Network Leads USDOT ‘Mayors Challenge’ Letter to Prince George’s County Executive Baker

Today, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership Greater Washington Regional Network led a letter to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III, encouraging him to sign up for the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Safer People, Safer Streets challenge. The challenge is aimed at mayors and local elected leaders across the nation, and encourages jurisdictions to spend one year undertaking activities that will improve safety for all road users.

The letter was joined by the Washington Area Bicycle Association, the Institute for Public Health Innovation, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Prince George’s Advocates for Community-based Transit, and CASA de Maryland. Each of these groups work to advance health and safety in Prince George’s County. Check out the USDOT website to learn more about the Safer People, Safer Streets challenge.

VDOT Safe Routes to School APP Application Online. Deadline for Applications March 31st.

For our Northern Virginia partners,

You can now create or update your Activities and Program Plans (APPs) online if you are applying for the current round of non-infrastructure Safe Routes to School funding.  We know a number of jurisdictions are applying, but if we haven’t heard from you, please reach out so we can keep track of applicants from Northern Virginia. And good luck to all of those who are submitting applications!

SRTS VDOT

Dear SRTS Partners,

I just wanted to send out a quick message to those of you who are creating or updating your APPs, to let you know how you can access the application.

As in years past, we are using an online grant application system, which you will use to submit your APP and create and submit your application. You can find the application here, and you can also download and review the application questions here.

As promised, you can access the system as of March 1st. The deadline for submitting your application is March 31st.  Please also remember that the first step in the process is the submission of you APP which, if it has not already been reviewed by VDOT, may take up to two weeks for approval before you can access the rest of the application.  To ensure you have plenty of time to complete the application, we recommend you submit your APP as soon as possible, but no later than March 13th.

If you have any questions about the application process, take a look at the information on our website, contact your Local Technical Assistance Coordinator (LTAC) or call the Program Hotline at 1-855-601-7787 for support.

Regards,

Robert J. Williams

Virginia Safe Routes to School Coordinator

VDOT Announces New Funding for Safe Routes to School Non-Infrastructure Grants!

For our Northern Virginia partners,

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has announced new funding for Safe Routes to School non-infrastructure grants, which includes funding for staff coordinator positions (see page 7 of the guidelines). Details are below. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is available to provide advice and help with your applications if you decide to apply. We also would like to keep track of applicants from Northern Virginia so please let us know if your jurisdiction plans to apply.

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Dear SRTS Partners,

If you read our December newsletter, you might have seen the teaser about our upcoming grant announcement.  Well, it is official, VDOT is kicking off the 2015 round of Non-Infrastructure Grants!

As in years past, the first step is the creation of an Activities and Program Plan (APP) to document your intentions for enabling and encouraging students to engage in active transportation as they travel to and from school.  You can find the guidelines for the creation of an APP, as well as a template and FAQ sheet, on the School Travel Plans and Grants page.  Previously submitted APPs must be updated to reflect your most recent activities.

We will once again make ourselves available to review your draft or final APP if you submit it to your LTAC via email by February 28th. The APPs will be reviewed as they are received, but a response will be provided within two weeks of the request.  Those received by February 28th will be guaranteed a response by March 11th, and those submitted well in advance of the deadline will likely have a quicker turnaround time.

Once your APP is complete, you will submit it through our online grant application system as the first step of your application.  Please note – we will open the application page for submissions on March 1stAll applications must be substantially complete and submitted by March 31st.

Important Dates:

  • February 28th: Deadline for optional review of APP
  • March 1st: Non-Infrastructure Grant application system opens for submissions
  • March 31st: Non-Infrastructure Grant application due

For more information about purpose of the grant, funding limits, eligible activities and other pertinent information, please consult the Virginia SRTS Program Guidelines.
For help getting started, or if you have any questions, please contact us at 1-855-601-7787 or email the LTAC for your region.

I look forward to working with you over the next few months to get your schools access to this great resource.

Regards,

Rob Williams

Virginia Safe Routes to School Coordinator

An Update on our Regional Network Efforts in Greater Washington, DC

Dear Partners in the Greater Washington DC Region:

Happy New Year! We wanted to share an update regarding our staff working in the Greater Washington DC Region. We are excited to announce that Bill Sadler, our regional policy manager in the Greater Washington, DC region, will be transitioning back to Southern California to fill our vacant regional policy manager position there. We hired Bill in September 2014, and while he readily jumped in to the work in the DC region with both feet, part of him desired to work in Southern California. Given Bill’s strong skill set and transportation knowledge base, we have made the decision to transition him back to Southern California, effective February 2.

Meanwhile, this transition opened up an opportunity in the Greater Washington DC region and as circumstances would have it, our federal policy manager, Matt Colvin, was facing the end of funding for his current position. We felt that his strong policy experience would serve him well as regional policy manager and so he will take on the regional work, effective January 20.
Matt’s full bio can be viewed here.

We are very enthusiastic about the restructured regional policy team, and we are anticipating a busy but effective year in 2015!

Questions? Contact Stephanie Weber, Regional Network Manager, at stephanie@saferoutespartnership.org or (757) 871-8639

Bill Sadler, bill@saferoutespartnership.org or 847-732-4007
Matthew Colvin, matthew@saferoutespartnership.org or (202) 847-0240

Update to the Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Released!

Screenshot 2014-11-20 11.32.37The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has updated its Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan for the National Capital Region. The plan is updated every four years with input from member jurisdictions in D.C., Maryland and Virginia and includes both funded and unfunded projects. Martin De Caro of WAMU crunched the numbers and found that the updated plan includes more than 500 new bicycle and pedestrian projects totaling over 2,000 new miles of bike lanes, 2,000 miles of shared use paths and hundreds of new bicycle routes through the year 2040.

The plan goes to the Transportation Planning Board for approval in December. Read the full regional plan here.

This comes on the heels of several local jurisdictions updating their pedestrian and bicycle plans, and rates of walking and bicycling up in most jurisdictions in the Greater Washington, D.C. region. In October, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a Countywide Bicycle Master Plan and the District of Columbia released the final version of the Move DC plan. The City of Alexandria is also in the midst of updating its Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan. It remains to be seen if funding will become available to implement many of these improvements, but it is clear that there is a vision and momentum to make the Greater Washington, D.C. region a safer place to walk and bike!

Read the full regional plan here.

Meeting Summary: Safe Routes to School Regional Meeting – October 28, 2014

A print version of this meeting summary is available here

On Tuesday, October 28, 2014, over 60 people from the Greater Washington, D.C. region came together for the annual Safe Routes to School Regional Network Meeting. The meeting was an opportunity to showcase the approaches that different communities in the region are using to make it safer to walk and bike to school and in the community, as well as hear best practices from around the country. The event took place at the offices of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments in Washington, DC, and was generously supported by Kaiser Permanente. Presentations and other materials from the meeting are available here.

IMG_0537Keynote Address: Mark Fenton

The morning kicked off with Mark Fenton, a national expert on Safe Routes to School, complete streets and public health. Mark fired up the crowd with his speech on how to make policy change to support Safe Routes to School. Mark laid out the health trends driving the childhood obesity epidemic, arguing that we need to change the conversation to focus on twin epidemics: physical inactivity and poor nutrition. Getting more kids to walk or bike to school, as they once did, could improve child health outcomes, but parents and school officials have safety concerns and other priorities that have made it hard to get the attention it needs. But we can make Safe Routes to School a “wedge” issue and insert it into these other conversations. Often parents and school officials are concerned about academic performance, and physical activity has been shown to make students more alert and perform better on tests. Many schools schedule recess for after lunch, leading many students to eat quickly so they can go play outside. After one school switched recess to before lunch, it saw that kids ate healthier and performed better the rest of the school day. So getting more kids to walk and bike to school can have similar benefits. In addition, budget issues are always a top concern for school administrators. With more kids walking and biking to school, there may be less traffic congestion and need for buses, which can reduce transportation spending. There may also be less need for staff time to serve as traffic cops. Mark also laid out the five “E’s” of Safe Routes to School and shared success stories from around the U.S.

One of the biggest takeaways from Mark’s presentation was that Safe Routes to School advocates need to fully engage top school administrators in order to make progress on policy and environment change. It is not enough to have a coordinator, P.E. teacher or PTA on board, we need the principals and superintendents. Anything less and we will be spinning our wheels on short-term outcomes and one-off activities like walking school buses, walk-to-school events, safety training and encouragement. We also need municipal transportation departments fully on board, including traffic engineers and public works. They hold significant power over our roads, and we need to convince them to rethink decades-old design standards that inhibit safe walking and bicycling in our communities.

Mark’s Presentation: Fenton_SRTS Presentation

Screenshot 2014-11-03 12.30.05National Best Practices: Carol Kachadoorian

In the next session, Carol Kachadoorian of Toole Design Group shared examples of Safe Routes to School initiatives around the country, including a handful of factors affecting program outcomes. A successful Safe Routes to School program involves a number of considerations and is context-based. First, it depends on the size of the community. In smaller communities, it can be easier to engage local leaders in the SRTS discussion, whereas in larger communities, it takes school community leaders and other intermediaries to be the champions. Second, the orientation of the streets in the community matters. If a community is very auto-oriented, it can be harder to get kids to walk or bike to school compared to a community built with a street grid or that has a strong complete streets policy. It also matters if school facilities are interconnected – are the elementary, middle and high schools on one campus, including the recreational facilities? Third, the target of Safe Routes to School initiatives is often the low-hanging fruit: easy targets such as well-resourced schools with active parents and receptive school officials. These are good to get a movement going, but advocates should think about harder and better targets such as Title I and under-resourced schools, equity and safety concerns. Fourth, the role of the department of transportation is important. Does the DOT distribute money or do they give out goods and services? There is the “Resource Center” model with consolidated support from the DOT, and the “Get the Money Out” model where communities basically “learn to fish” themselves through mini-grants and funds from the DOT. Fifth, youth engagement is important. Advocates need to include student participation in SRTS discussions. It can’t just be the parents. Finally, successful SRTS programs “widen the circle” of influence. They include multiple departments and jurisdictions. Nontraditional partners such as metropolitan planning organizations and regional planning councils can help convene a regional discussion on Safe Routes to School. Coordinator between education and transportation departments is also critical, as SRTS programs differ in where they are housed from community to community.

Carol’s presentation: Kachadoorian_SRTS Presentation

Stories from the Region

The third and final session of the Regional Meeting provided an opportunity for local Safe Routes to School coordinators and advocates to share updates on their efforts over the past year.

Screenshot 2014-11-03 12.30.50Safe Routes Goes to High School in Montgomery County: YOLO WalkSafe

Nadji Kirby, Safe Routes to School Coordinator for the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, shared the #YOLOWalkSafe High School Pedestrian Safety Campaign, a multimedia effort to reduce pedestrian crashes involving teens in the county. The campaign initially focused on Blair High School, where several pedestrian collisions had occurred over a two-year period and 39% involved people under 20 years old. The “Tired Faces” campaign includes photos of teenagers with tire marks painted on their faces and slogans such as “If You Text, You’re Next” and “Don’t Be Caught Dead Wearing Black.” More information about the program is available here.

Nadji’s presentation: Kirby_Montgomery SRTS Presentation

Using the Media to Promote Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety: Street Smart

Screenshot 2014-11-03 12.36.10Michael Farrell, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation Planner for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, presented on the Regional Street Smart Campaign, which aims to highlight pedestrian and bicycle safety problems and trends in the Greater Washington, DC region using mass media, public relations and enforcement. Pedestrian fatalities have increased nationally since 2009 and the DC metro region ranks 24th out of 51st for the number of pedestrian fatalities per capita. The proportion of pedestrian and bicycle fatalities is also increasing in the DC metro region and represents about one-fourth of all traffic fatalities. The campaign also utilizes the “Tired Faces” images and has put them on buses, gas pumps, radio and other places for the past few years. They have also done press events on several occasions. More information about the program is available here.

Michael’s presentation: Farrell_Street Smart Presentation

Screenshot 2014-11-03 12.32.17Starting Up A Safe Routes to School Program: Fairfax County

Fairfax County Public Schools launched their Safe Routes to School program in 2014, and Sally Smallwood, the district’s SRTS coordinator, discussed lessons learned from the past year. Sally had to work hard to make communities know she existed and what Safe Routes to School was all about. There are 139 elementary and 26 middle schools in the county, so it is a big lift to get to know everyone. Contacts were really important, and Sally spoke to many different groups including the PTAs, P.E. teachers, science teachers and parent liaisons. Some schools already had programs and she was able to tag along to their events. The traffic safety inspector was helpful in explaining the rules and regulations and why you can’t just paint a crosswalk and put in a crossing guard and make a road safe. Sally also reached out to fellow SRTS coordinators in other counties and visited schools with successful programs. Launching the countywide program took a lot of work but there are already signs of it being successful, including a record number of schools in Fairfax County participating in Walk to School Day this year. More information about the program is available here.

Sally’s presentation: Smallwood_Fairfax SRTS Presentation

Screenshot 2014-11-03 12.34.10The Evolution of a Longstanding Safe Routes to School Program: Washington, DC

Jennifer Hefferan from the District Department of Transportation discussed how DC’s Safe Routes to School program has evolved and changed over time. The program focuses on the Five “E”’s and creates Action Plans for schools around the District. Schools enroll in the Action Plans and no application is needed. In terms of encouragement, DDOT supports Walk to School Days, ABC’s of Family Bicycling and an annual Golden Bicycle Award. DDOT coordinates with public safety officials and crossing guards to ensure enforcement around schools. For engineering, DDOT has been really progressive about installing sidewalks near schools and has prioritized Safe Routes to School in the MoveDC plan, the city’s long-term transportation plan. For education, DDOT provides in-classroom safety trainings and just added new classes for parents to learn to bike with their children. Finally, the Action Plans include an evaluation component, which involved student travel tallies and a parent survey. More information on the program is available here.

Jennifer’s presentation: Hefferan_DC SRTS Presentation

Screenshot 2014-11-03 12.35.23Fire Up Your Feet: Encouraging Physical Activity Among Schoolchildren

Debbie Kilpatrick of the Virginia PTA and Ali Patty of Kaiser Permanente discussed the Fire Up Your Feet program, a core program of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership offering free resources, an online activity tracker, bi-annual Activity Challenges (in sponsored regions, including the Greater Washington, DC region), a school fundraising organizer and more, all aimed at increasing physical activity for grades K-8 nationally. Fire Up Your Feet is made possible in partnership with Kaiser Permanente and the National PTA as our family engagement partner. Local support is provided to schools in Virginia, D.C., and Maryland. More information on the program is available here.

Fire Up Your Feet presentation: FireUpYourFeet_SRTS Presentation

Concluding Thoughts

Screenshot 2014-11-03 12.32.35Overall, the annual Regional Meeting highlighted numerous success stories of Safe Routes to School initiatives in the Greater Washington, D.C. region and nationally. There are different approaches throughout the region, and many different actors and champions as well. It is clear that in order to keep the momentum going, we need to engage high-level officials at schools and transportation departments, who make the key decisions on funding and policy. We’ve done well as a region in highlighting pedestrian and bicycle safety through mass media, social media and events such as Walk to School Days, and these activities will see continued expansion.

Our real opportunity, however, is to change and institutionalize policies that promote walking and bicycling to and from schools and in the community, as well as to identify funding to expand the staffing capacity of Safe Routes to School initiatives. The 60-plus people who came to the Regional Meeting are our real champions, and we look to you to spread the message and create more Safe Routes to School advocates throughout the Greater Washington, DC region.

We hope to reconvene in 2015 and share more success stories about Safe Routes to School. Our survey is still open so please provide feedback to help up plan the next event: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/H3Z65DH

In the meantime, please share your progress, opportunities and challenges with the Regional Network!

Presentations and other materials from the meeting are available here.

A PDF version of this meeting summary is available here.

Questions?
Contact:
Bill Sadler
Regional Policy Manager
Safe Routes to School National Partnership
bill@saferoutespartnership.org
(847) 732-4007

Fairfax County Voters Approve Transportation Bond Measure: Safe Routes to School Projects Included!

Screenshot 2014-11-05 11.09.51Yesterday, the voters of Fairfax County overwhelmingly supported a $100 million bond measure to fund a variety of transportation projects in the county, including many pedestrian, bicycle and Safe Routes to School projects! The bond measure includes $77.5 million in pedestrian projects, $6.5 million in bike projects, and $16 million in spot road projects.

Approximately $17.5 million will go towards projects near the following schools in Fairfax County:

  • Annandale High School: Medford Drive Walkway
  • Belle View Elementary School: Fort Hunt Road Walkway
  • Chesterbrook Elementary School: Kirby Road Walkway Improvements
  • Fairhill Elementary School: Chichester Lane Walkway
  • Glen Forest Elementary School: Glen Forest Drive Walkway
  • Hayfield Secondary School: Telegraph Road            
  • Longfellow Middle School: Westmoreland Street Walkway
  • Mount Vernon High School: Old Mount Vernon Road Walkway
  • South Lakes High SchoolLangston Hughes Middle School: South Lakes Drive Walkways
  • Stratford Landing Elementary School: Riverside Road Walkway
  • South County High School: Silverbrook Road Walkway   
  • West Potomac High School: Quander Avenue Walkway
  • West Springfield High School: Center Road Walkway
  • West Springfield High School: Rolling Road Walkway

Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling has a full list of the bicycle projects here.

This is a significant victory for safe walking and bicycling in Fairfax County, and comes on the heels of last’s weeks unanimous approval of the Fairfax County Bicycle Master Plan! There is still a lot of work to be done in implementing these projects, but things are certainly moving forward in Fairfax County!

More information on the bond measure is available here.

Regional Meeting Recap – October 28, 2014

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Keynote speaker Mark Fenton

Thank you to those of you who attended the Safe Routes to School Regional Meeting this past Tuesday! We had over 60 people from DC, Virginia and Maryland attend the event. We appreciate your support and hard work making safe walking and bicycling to school a reality in the Greater Washington DC region.

I will post a meeting summary soon, but wanted to pass along the following resources:
Survey: Please evaluate the Regional Meeting! We appreciate any feedback you have on the meeting, as we plan for future events: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/H3Z65DH.
 
Presentations: The presentations are being posted on our website here. Most of them are already on there. Check back next week for the full slate.
 
Registration List: The list of attendees, with name, organization and email address, is attached as a PDF. It is also posted on our website here.
Follow Us: Want to stay up-to-date on everything going on in the DC region related to Safe Routes to School? Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and check out blog. We’ve also subscribed you to our monthly E-News, which contains important news and updates about once a month (you can opt out once it arrives in your inbox).
Questions for Speakers? Below is the contact information for all of the speakers.
Mark Fenton: info@markfenton.com
Carol Kachadoorian, Toole Design Group: ckachadoorian@tooledesign.com
Nadji Kirby, Montgomery County DOT SRTS Coordinator: nadji.kirby@montgomerycountymd.gov
Michael Farrell, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments: mfarrell@mwcog.org
Sally Smallwood, Fairfax County Public Schools SRTS Coordinator: sbsmallwood@fcps.edu
Jennifer Hefferan, DDOT SRTS Coordinator: jennifer.hefferan@dc.gov
Debbie Kilpatrick, Fire Up Your Feet Regional Program: debbie@fireupyourfeet.org
 
Questions for Me?
Feel free to contact me or set up a meeting/phone call to discuss Safe Routes to School, walking and bicycling and other related projects you are working on in your community. I can provide policy advice, technical assistance and direct you to best practices. I am happy to be a resource! We also have a greatResource Center on the National Partnership website, where you can access many of our great resources on Safe Routes to School!
Keep in touch and let me know how the Safe Routes to School Regional Network can help you make progress on your Safe Routes to School initiatives!
Bill Sadler
Regional Policy Manager, Greater Washington DC Regional Policy Manager
bill@saferoutespartnership.org
(847) 732-4007