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!

What Age Can Kids Start Walking to School?

Here’s my take on the issue, published in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune. Some of it will sound a little familiar to Free-Range Kids regulars, but it bears repeating: 

Most of the world’s kids walk to school by themselves starting in 1st grade. But here? Are you kidding? While the majority of us parents walked to school, today only 10 percent to 15 percent of kids do. How come?

The usual reason parents give is, “Times have changed,” and that’s true. Surprisingly, they have changed for the better.

Nationally, according to U.S. Department of Justice figures, we are back to the crime rate of 1970. In the ’70s and ’80s, the crime rate rose.

It peaked around 1993 and has been going down ever since, dramatically. So if you played outside any time in the ’70s or ’80s, your kids are actually safer than you were.

How come it feels just the opposite? When our parents were raising us, they were watching “Dallas” and “Dynasty.” The biggest crime was big hair. Today’s parents are watching “Law & Order” and “CSI,” shows overflowing with predators, rapists and maggots. TV has gotten so gross and so graphic, “I don’t think there’s a single episode of ‘Law & Order’ that could even have been shown before 1981,” says TV historian Robert Thompson.

Those scary shows — coupled with cable stations running off to Aruba or Portugal every time a white girl disappears — make us feel as if kids are being abducted 24/7. But the truth is: If, for some strange reason, you actually WANTED your child to be abducted by a stranger, do you know how long you would have to keep her outside, unattended, for this to be statistically likely to happen?

Guess.

Now guess again.

Oh, forget it. The answer is 750,000 years, according to Warwick Cairns, author of “How To Live Dangerously.”

So what age can your kids start walking to school? Same age that you did. And that goes for waiting at the bus stop and taking public transit too.

The rest of the piece deals with what age kids can make lunch, learn to cross the street, and play outside.

Here in New York City, school doesn’t start for another three weeks, but it is zooming toward us faster than a science fair project  deadline. Let’s try to make this a year that our kids learn to do something new on their own.

Including, maybe, the science fair project! — Lenore