Help Save Safe Routes to School & Public Transit!

Hi Readers: This just in from the Safe Routes folks! – L.

Double Your Impact—Act Now on Key Senate and House Transportation Votes

Next Tuesday both the US House and Senate may vote on new transportation bills that could destroy transit, bicycling and walking funding, including the popular Safe Routes to School program, which is now getting kids moving safely again at over 12,000 schools around the US! A national coalition of groups including the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and many, many others, are asking you to help to make streets safer  for kids.

This vote will take place early next week, so please take action now!

·         Safety matters. Bicycle and pedestrian deaths make up 14% of all traffic fatalities, but only 1.5% of federal funds go towards making walking and biking safer. These programs provide funding for sidewalks, crosswalks, and bikeways that make streets safe for all users.

·         Active transportation is a wise investment. Walking and biking infrastructure is low-cost, creates more jobs per dollar than any other kind of highway spending, and is critical to economic development for main street America. A University of Massachusetts study of 11 cities found that bicycling and walking infrastructure projects created over 11 jobs per million dollars spent, whereas road-only projects created less than 8 jobs per million dollars spent. And since bicycling and walking projects are more labor-intensive than road projects, they mostly create jobs right in the local communities where the projects are located, not in other parts of a state, the US or overseas.

The current Senate transportation bill dilutes Safe Routes to School, walking and bicycling programs. It gives your state department of transportation the power to decide whether or not to make any funding available for these critical programs. Local governments deserve a voice in transportation. To improve the bill,  Senators should  vote for the Cardin-Cochran amendment on the floor to guarantee local governments a voice in transportation decisions, allowing them to build sidewalks, crosswalks, and bikeways that keep people safe.

In the House,  Representatives should oppose the House transportation bill. Despite the fact that walking and bicycling infrastructure is a low-cost investment that creates more jobs per dollar than any other kind of highway spending, the House bill eliminates dedicated funding for walking and bicycling and repeals the Safe Routes to School program.

The House bill also brings to an end 30 years of dedicated transit funding, increasing the unpredictability of transit funding for communities already suffering from a lack of federal commitment to public transportation. The bill also guts Amtrak, High-Speed and Passenger Rail funding. At a time when ridership has steadily increased to its highest point in Amtrak history, the bill will cut Amtrak funding by over $300 million.

The House bill takes us back to the 1950s by eliminating dedicated funding for bicycling and walking AND kicking transit out of the highway trust fund. We need a transportation bill to meet our needs in 2012 and beyond.

Congress needs to know that finding effective, efficient transportation solutions to keep people safe on the streets should be a national priority. Will you contact your Representative and Senators today and ask them to save our streets?  By taking action, you can easily contact both your Senators and Representative in one simple step.

And, if you want to do even more, get your mayor, your school principal, or other community leaders to call their Senators too.

Thank you for all that you do for Safe Routes to School!

20 Responses

  1. Thanks for posting this. I walk my kids to school, and know I’m lucky our route is safe. Not everyone has that.

  2. We should encourage alternatives like walking and biking. By using these methods, we will drive less, thus improving air quality and using less oil. (I’m glad I live in NYC, where you don’t need a car.)

  3. I don’t often question your statements, but I’d like to know what percentage of pedestrian fatalities are caused by oblivious pedestrians stepping into the street without looking, or standing and talking in the street with no awareness that they are in the path of moving vehicles.

    My gripe is based on the fact that I live near the tourist-trap town of New Hope PA. I drive very carefully when I go through the town, because I know it and its hazards well. Nevertheless I STILL come close to raising the average IQ of the species at least once a year because some idiot darts out from between parked cars, as far from any crosswalk as he could get if he was trying. Furthermore there is something in the water that causes people to wait until the crossing signal has changed against them and THEN start across the street.

    New Hope doesn’t need money spent of Safe Routes. It needs money spent on writing tickets for jaywalking.

  4. Aztec- I’ve often thought that it would be easier to raise kids free range in NY, because of the dedicated pedestrian culture.

    Where I’m at- a small town with haphazard sidewalk maintenance and limited crosswalks with stoplights, I can see the reluctance to let kids walk too far on their own. An elderly woman recently died because she was walking on the road- yeah, it was dark, but where was she supposed to walk? The sidewalks were impassable.

  5. I’m going to just paint a big red target on my back here, and say that while I agree that kids need good bike/walking paths no matter what community they live in (mine ride on gravel roads here, but the city nearby also has good bike paths and sidewalks that we enjoy.), I do think communities/cities should take responsibility for their own sidewalks, public transportation, etc. We don’t need federal funding earmarked for this! It’s not the gov’t’s job to make everything we think is desirable happen at our own specific location. It’s our job. Now, if the gov’t had a surplus of money available and no debt, this might be an okay way to spend the money. But spending money you don’t have isn’t a free range concept at all if one of our goals is to teach our kids to be responsible. And isn’t that what we’re asking our gov’t to do if we tell them to keep this? I vote get rid of the federal funding and petition your city/community groups/charitable organizations/neighborhood to get these things put into place.

  6. Although individual cities/states should take care of their own in many respects, providing children with a safe and clean route to school SHOULD be a NATIONAL concern. There’s plenty of other places the gov’t can re-think spending without sacrifice on the part of our children’s health and well being.

  7. delcar: To some extent, I agree with you. The issue is that the government is apparently going to be spending large sums on highways for cars (as always) and NONE for bikes or pedestrians. It’s about what types of behavior the government should encourage and fund.

  8. I added my name to the support for safe routes petition.
    I live in an urban area, and yet if I so much as walk a mile to the local supermarket, I have to cross an entrance and exit ramp off a highway, with cars careening around a curve at 60 mph. I used to run track, so I can move, but what would a small child with a heavy sack of books do?
    It is also ironic that many of the politicians, who are so eager to promote a paranoid view of the outside world to students, would then make it more difficult to make things safer. It reminds me of the Republicans who say “where are the jobs?” and then vote against anything that would actually create jobs, and also vote to cut unemployment benefits from 99 weeks to 59 weeks. We could use fewer of these “self-fulfilling prophecy” mongers.

  9. delcar- Local municipalities/charities/individuals taking the responsibility to maintain safe walkways sounds lovely- but I can tell you that in my small town, it doesn’t work. I was told that individuals were responsible for cleaning off their sidewalks when snow fell, insuring safe walking conditions, but, well, they have not done that. And then someone died. Should individuals and charities be responsible for insuring safe roads as well? Because unsafe sidewalk conditions are not only a risk to walkers, but to drivers too- what driver wants to be dodging a walker on the road during winter conditions?

  10. Delcar, that argument would fly if the federal government didn’t currently spend an inordinate amount of money on infrastructure for cars.

    Some of that money could easily be diverted to make infrastructure for pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transportation. (I can think of other ways to take the money the government ALREADY TAKES IN and shift it around to spend it better, but let’s keep the conversation on transportation, all right?)

  11. Uly, I’d just like to point out that the “infrastructure for cars” is also “infrastructure for trucks” such as the ones that deliver food to your local grocery store.

  12. Peter: If the US government didn’t spend billions on the highway system, more freight would move by rail and people would depend more on local goods. (Truck freight is massively subsidized by the federal government, as the damage an 18-wheeler causes to the roads far outweighs the highway taxes paid by its owner.)

    Partly because freight transportation is subsidized, local producers have a hard time competing against larger national ones. Here in the New York area, we tend to get mostly California produce, even when the local stuff is delicious and in season.

    Choices were made, most dramatically around 1950. To promote the car above pedestrians or mass transit, to build broad featureless suburbs instead of downtowns. We’re still living in the nation those choices built.

  13. Dear Lenore,

    The very first argument you use in this post involves child safety? Did you really write this? No, I don’t believe you did. It was written by the child safety alarmists at something called “Safe Routes to School National Partnership.” The thrust of the entire post is that continued federal government involvement in local, non-highway, transportation funding is a prerequisite for free ranging. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. Our children should be independent, but when the feds cut off a few transit dollars all parents should panic and hastily call their elected officials to protect their children. Is that the Free Range mindset? Anything but! I grew up in a fairly large city in an even larger metropolitan area with no bike lanes, few bus lines, and sidewalks in only the newest subdivisions. It was a great town for free ranging and it received zero federal transit dollars for non-roads related expenditures. Why in the world do you peddle such garbage? This has no place in your blog.

    Let me make just one simple argument about transportation funding. You like statistics, right? Over the past 15 years (1994 to 2009) traffic fatalities have fallen dramatically, despite a significant rise in the number of vehicle miles driven. This decline has been much ballyhooed in the media, and for good reason. The total number of traffic fatalities, not including pedestrian fatalities, fell from 35,227 in 1994 to 29,716 in 2009, or a 15 percent decline. By comparison, over the same period, the number of pedestrian fatalities fell from 5,489 to 4,092, or a 25 percent decline – a far greater decline than for traffic fatalities, in general. Do these statistics suggest that there is a need to become alarmed that some funding will be shifted from the Safe Routes program to some other use? I should think not. As these statistics suggest, our world is safe and getting safer and I don’t see why an earmark to the Safe Routes programs makes much sense.

    Our nation is chock full of pressure groups that have wrapped themselves in the “public interest” and are in the business of squeezing out tribute from our government, federal, state and local. They are a part of the nanny-mentality that this site has always seemed to oppose. Please don’t loose that focus.

    Here is a link to the NHTSA statistics, if you’d like to check my math:

    Yours truly,


  14. Hmph. Personally, I think cyclists and bicycles as a method of transport in cities shouldn’t be a thing.

    Bicycles have no place on the road. They are too slow, accelerate too slowly, too small, and too vulnerable. They shouldn’t be mixing with cars and buses.

    Bicycles have no place on the footpath. They are too big and too fast. They shouldn’t be mixing with pedestrians.

    Drive, walk, or catch public transport. Don’t try to do an in-between. It doesn’t fit.

  15. @ Sera: That’s a little misguided if you ask me. I have never had any issues with cyclists on the road, except those dummies who don’t know how to follow the “rules of the road”. eg. riding in the middle of the road, rather than off to the right close to the sidewalk, as most cyclist should be doing. They are slow, and do impeded traffic when they do this. But not all cyclist. Just a handful, mostly the couriers. Cycling is an excellent alternative to transit and driving. It’s faster than walking, no pollutant, and can avoid traffic jams, not to mention a great way to stay fit. Let’s keep in mind here, it’s not the vehicle that’s the problem, it’s the people using it. There are ignorant, drivers, cyclists, and yes…even pedestrians. There is an alarming trend of pedestrian injuries, because they weren’t paying attention crossing the street. ie. busy chatting with someone, talking on the phone, texting, etc… They are too accustomed to the idea of “pedestrians have the right of way”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t apply when you just step out without paying attention, especially if you step out against a red light. If people were more considerate and more aware, there would be far, far less issues. Removing one or the other isn’t solving the problem, it just puts a “band-aid” on a gash, rather than a permanent fix of “stitching” it up. Perhaps, stiffer penalties on ANYONE who cause an infraction. Be it a driver, cyclist or pedestrian. At the same time, use the money received by these tickets towards fixing sidewalks and making bike lanes or routes. Like killing two birds with one stone.

  16. I’m with delcar on this. Why should we send money to Washington, and hope that a sliver would come back for local use (after being sliced to pay for levels of bureaucracy). And when those dollars come back they come with strings firmly attached.

    A local volunteer fire departments has a shiny new firehouse, complete with living quarters, despite having no paid staff, apparently because that was a requirement that came with the federal dollars. The size and cost of the project increased significantly because of these requirement. Value to the local resident is zero.

    I don’t find any good reason for turning local maintenance projects into federal projects. Leave those dollars at home, and let local governments make the decisions. A citizen can influence his or her local government; he or she has no influence in Washington. That’s the exclusive domain of unions and organized pressure groups, who are more interested in feathering their own nexts than in meeting local needs.

  17. I disagree with ThOR, sidewalks and Free-Range go hand in hand. If you live in a big city it probably already has sidewalks, if you live in a small town it probably doesn’t need sidewalks, however I know the city where I live is midsized, doesn’t have a lot of sidewalks and desperately needs them in order to have more kids be free-range. I believe there a lot of towns like this one. I don’t know what could be done to get more sidewalks put in here but I know if there is any way that the city could access funds for that purpose it could help it to be done.
    As an example of needing sidewalks to be more free-range. My son wanted me to take him to the Dollartree recently and was complaining because he had to wait. I told him that if there were sidewalks he could go by himself. The streets he would have to walk down are far to heavily traveled to walk on safely and there are no crosswalks or walk/don’t walk signs at the intersections. I believe that if there are cross walks painted on the street it makes drivers more aware that people may be crossing and children cannot walk down the side of a street where cars are driving 40 mph or more. There are places my kids can get to on their own, like the library, they can walk through a subdivision and then cut through a small parking lot to get to a light and cross the street (that has no crosswalk) but there are a lot of other places they can’t go because there is no safe way to get there unless they are in a car or with an adult and walking as an adult on those streets is pretty scary too.

  18. delcar, it’s the Federal government that created this problem, by funding this huge network of roadways without sidewalks, with prevailing traffic speeds above 40MPH, and by pushing road engineering standards that emphasize the safety of drivers over that of pedestrians walking by the road.

  19. “The very first argument you use in this post involves child safety? Did you really write this? No, I don’t believe you did. It was written by the child safety alarmists at something called “Safe Routes to School National Partnership.”

    Thor, Lenore is dismissive of alarmist responses to rare incidents, and rightly so. Traffic accidents are not rare. They happen every day, and are among the main killers of children.

  20. “I don’t often question your statements, but I’d like to know what percentage of pedestrian fatalities are caused by oblivious pedestrians stepping into the street without looking, or standing and talking in the street with no awareness that they are in the path of moving vehicles.”

    your attitude is exactly the problem here. “something bad might happen at some point, somewhere, maybe” and THEREFORE it must be banned.

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