Recipients of ITD’s recent Safe Routes to School (SR2S) funding awards spent most of Wednesday learning how to turn funded proposals into working activities. Several national Safe Routes to School authorities were on hand for the workshop, presented by ITD in Boise.
The Skills for Local Program Development training provided 26 participants with practical approaches, community-tested processes and tools to develop and implement their local SR2S projects.
Trainers Wendi Kallins and Diane Lambert used a mix of presentations, group discussion and hands-on exercises to guide participants through strategies designed to help implement their programs
Kallins is founder and program director for Marin County’s safe routes program. It was established in California in 2000 and was selected the same year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to be the national suburban model. Kallins is the author of the National Safe Routes to School Toolkit, which NHTSA published to create a way for communities throughout the U.S. to more easily launch safe routes programs.
A project planner with practical experience in program and community development, Lambert has conducted numerous Safe Routes workshops and training throughout the country.
“Safe Routes to School is more than safety education,” Kallins told the participants. “It is a comprehensive program that integrates health, traffic relief, environmental awareness and safety through the cooperation of schools, parents, students, police and government.”
She added that it also is a systematic program that institutionalizes walking and biking to school, re-creating a culture in which safe walking and biking is encouraged and supported by the community.
“Prepare, don’t scare,” Kallins said. “Take the time to find out the real dangers kids are facing, not just “stranger danger,” and then get everyone involved as a community, including the kids.”
Research on the safety of children walking and bicycling to school began in the U.S. in the early 1970s and was highlighted by release of the U.S. Department of Transportation publication “School Trip Safety and Urban Play Areas” in 1975, according to the National Center for Safe Routes to Schools.
The term “Safe Routes to School” was used in Denmark in the late 1970s as part of a successful initiative to reduce the number of children killed while walking and bicycling to school. The program spread internationally, springing up throughout Europe and in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and in the late 1990s, in the United States.
Roots of the SR2S program in the U.S. can be traced to the first National Walk to School Day held in 1997. A decade later, Congress funded pilot SR2S programs in Marin County, Calif., and Arlington, Mass. The national program was signed into law in August 2005, dedicating a total of $612 million for state SR2S efforts through 2009.
Based on positive response to the workshop by participants, more will likely be planned, according to Josephine O’Connor, Idaho’s SR2S coordinator.