Oregon Safe Routes to School Conference (late) Wrap-up
We were very excited to host the annual Safe Routes to School Conference at the end of the school year and even though we immediately had summer break we wanted to take this opportunity, as we gear up for another school year, to reflect back on what we heard and learned at the June event. This write up from LeeAnne Ferguson, the Safe Routes to School Director for the newly renamed Street Trust (formerly the Bicycle Transportation Alliance), gives a good wrap up and helps us look at three challenges the Oregon SRST Network can work on over the coming year:
On June 20 and 21, 2016, the Oregon Safe Routes to School Network came together at South Eugene High School for the Oregon Safe Routes to School Conference to engage participants in building a statewide agenda to make it safe for Oregon kids to walk, bike, and access transit to school. Speakers included State Representative John Lively; National Speaker on Free Range Kids, Lenore Skenazy; and Street Scale Campaign Manager, Keith Benjamin, from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.
Many kids in Oregon can’t walk and bike to school because of unsafe streets and lack of necessary education programming. By making safe routes to school, more kids can get the daily health benefits of walking and biking while reducing the amount of motor vehicles on the road during peak times. Safe Routes to School is a solution for all Oregonians.
City planners, parents, teachers, advocates, health professionals, and youth examined innovative ideas on how to increase walking and biking to school in Oregon by 40%, how to include access to transit for older students, and how to make streets safe around schools. Visionaries spoke and encouraged this group to keep pushing to make Safe Routes to School for every kid in Oregon.
At the Conference we made sure to create space to celebrate successes and discuss challenges. Read about Oregon Safe Routes to School successes in the Network’s 2015 Annual Report. Many challenges were revealed during the Oregon Safe Routes to School Network Annual Meeting, which took place on the second day of the conference. The Network decided to focus on finding solutions for three challenges this upcoming school year.
- Reaching all Oregon kids with limited capacity: Right now about 20% of Oregon schools have received at least some piece of a comprehensive Safe Routes to School program at some point, but 80% of schools (about 1,000 schools) have been left out. Ongoing programs are even more scarce.
- Embracing Equity: Prioritize schools that need Safe Routes to School the most, like Title 1 (low income) schools.
- Making streets safe around schools: At many schools walking and biking is not permitted because of easily identifiable areas and intersections that are not safe for kids to use.
A growing coalition called For Every Kid will work with the Oregon Safe Routes to School Network to help find solutions to these challenges. For Every Kid is committed to making Safe Routes to School for every kid in Oregon by advocating for dedicated funding for SRTS education programs and street improvements near schools.
Safe Routes to School is a city, school district, county, regional, and statewide program that combines educational programs and street improvements around the school. When a comprehensive program exists on average 40% more students will walk and bike to school and get 60% of their daily-recommended exercise. Currently Safe Routes to School initiatives exist in Eugene, Springfield, Portland, Beaverton, Multnomah County, Bend, Redmond, Albany, Tigard, Corvallis, and other cities throughout Oregon.
The Oregon Safe Routes to School Network works to energize and expand current programs to reach more students and to expand Safe Routes to School to every community and every kid in Oregon. They understand that the need is great. Washington County did a needs-assessment early this year and learned that over $100 million is needed to make streets safe around schools in Washington County alone. For the Oregon Safe Routes to School Network, making Safe Routes to School for every kid is a marathon not a sprint, and this conference offered a moment to celebrate, learn, and work together to make Oregon kids healthy and safe.
Huge thanks to all of our Conference sponsors: Oregon Department of Transportation, Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Commute Options, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, ALTA Planning and Design, Eugene/Springfield Safe Routes to School, 4J School District, Lane Transit District, and Kaiser Permanente.