US ‘Safe Routes to School’ programmes benefit from new funding

Children who walk or bike to school at a young age are more likely to continue the habit as they age. Image: Unsplash/Caleb Oquendo

The US Government has announced a mammoth cash award of over $800 million USD for making the country’s streets safer, including dedicated ‘Safe Routes to School’.

More than 500 projects across 49 states will benefit from the cash, with the US revealing that it experienced a 16-year high in traffic-related deaths in 2021, with deaths up 13 per cent on the previous year.

Pete Buttigieg, US Transportation Secretary, said: “Every year, crashes costs tens of thousands of American lives…we face a national emergency and it demands action.”

Examples of local child-friendly schemes and projects that will benefit include ‘Safe Routes to School’ action plans in the Californian cities of Costa Mesa and La Habra. Both are receiving $200,000.

‘This demands action’

On a larger scale, the city of Tampa in Florida is receiving some $20million to overhaul large sections of the city, to make them safer for vulnerable road users. This includes a particular focus on improvements near schools and parks.

Hillsborough County, also in Florida, is receiving just under $20million for projects including bicycle lanes and speed management solutions at locations that are what the government calls ‘highest priorities’ for Safe Routes to School (SRTS).

SRTS promotes walking and cycling to school through infrastructure improvements, enforcement, tools, safety education, and incentives to encourage walking and bicycling to school. Some 10-14 per cent of all car trips nationally during morning rush hour are for school travel, and SRTS initiatives improve safety and levels of physical activity for students. SRTS programs can be implemented by a department of transportation, metropolitan planning organisation, local government, school district, or even a school.

‘Highest priorities’

This latest funding scheme has been praised by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), saying it showed the way to ‘address safety, equity and the climate crisis’ on the nation’s roads.

Corrine Kisner, Executive Director of NACTO, said: “By making walking, biking and taking transit safer for the millions of Americans who do so every day, we can make the country healthier and more resilient.”

Click here for more information on Safe Routes to School in the US.

Author: Simon Weedy

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