Before we begin to look forward into 2010, I'd like to reflect on a few experiences we've had over the past couple of months at the National Center for Safe Routes to School.
In December, the National Center announced the selection of 25 Safe Routes to School (SRTS) mini-grants recipients. From social media campaigns to science-based encouragement programs, each mini-grant recipient's planned activities illustrates the potential greater impact of successful SRTS efforts and, to say the least, we were inspired by the vision and creativity of local efforts across the country.
The National Center's recently released Winter 2009 Program Tracking Report shows measured growth of the national SRTS program during the fourth quarter of 2009, the first quarter that the program has operated under a Continuing Resolution. The total number of schools that have benefited or will benefit from funds announced by state SRTS Programs grew to 6,4893 — a two percent increase over the previous quarter.
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership recently released a new national report, Safe Routes to School: Putting Traffic Safety First — How Safe Routes to School Initiatives Protect Children Walking and Bicycling, which shows how Safe Routes to School programs can be harnessed to keep children safe from traffic dangers while walking and bicycling to school.
And just last week, I joined representatives from the Federal Highway Administration, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center and the New York City Department of Transportation at the Transportation Research Board's (TRB) Annual Meeting to lead a session entitled "Livability Initiatives: Building Upon Walking and Bicycling Successes." There was great interest in the session and we were asked thoughtful questions about how SRTS and the other topics discussed played a role in the larger livability movement.
We even helped a Japanese broadcast journalist find an operating walking school bus to film in New Jersey in the dead of winter for a story on walking trends in the U.S. that he was producing.
Safe Routes to School can be an important player in a variety of focus areas — transportation, safety, education — and, as First Lady Michelle Obama hones in on obesity as "one of the biggest threats to the American economy," we hope that the relevance of SRTS programs continues to rise in conversations about healthy living as well.
Together, we can achieve great things!