The East Central Wisconsin Regional Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program focuses on empowering local communities and school districts with the resources and knowledge needed to implement SRTS activities. By working to make it safer and more appealing for students (grades K–8) to walk and bike to school, the Regional SRTS Program is continually making strides to improve childhood health, reduce traffic congestion and pollution, and create more livable communities.
The program encompasses a ten county region in northeast Wisconsin including Calumet, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Marquette, Menominee, Outagamie, Shawano, Waupaca, Winnebago, and Waushara counties. Projects range from planning safe walking and biking routes to coordinating events, such as Walk to School Day, that educate and encourage students. East Central SRTS staff, with years of experience on these and other bicycle/pedestrian-related projects, assist local schools and municipalities to continually improve their SRTS efforts.
Regional SRTS Background Information
The Regional Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program was started in October of 2009. At that time there were eight safe routes to school programs within East Central’s ten county region. That number has expanded to 22 school districts and 86 schools in one and a half years. Each school has their own set of challenges within their Safe Routes to School Program, and they are working towards addressing those challenges through the Regional SRTS Program. East Central staff provides guidance and resources to implement education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation programs. The goal of this program is to empower local SRTS committees with the resources and knowledge to have a sustainable and successful SRTS Program.
SRTS Program History
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 US DOT publication “School Trip Safety and Urban Play Areas” in 1975. The term “Safe Routes to School” was first used in Denmark in the late 1970s as part of a very successful initiative to reduce the number of children killed while walking and bicycling to school. Safe Routes to School spread internationally, with programs springing up throughout Europe and in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States.
The first modern Safe Routes to School program in the U.S. began in 1997 in the Bronx, NY. In 1998, Congress funded two pilot SRTS programs through the US DOT. NHTSA issued $50,000 each for Safe Routes to School pilot programs in Marin County, California and Arlington, Massachusetts. Within a year after the launch of the pilot programs, many other grassroots Safe Routes to School efforts were started throughout the United States.
As word spread in the pedestrian and bicyclist community of success with the NHTSA pilot programs, interest in a broader program grew. Efforts to include a larger SRTS program in federal legislation began in earnest in 2002. In 2003, the League of American Bicyclists organized the first meeting of leaders in pedestrian and bicycle issues to talk about SRTS issues and how a national program might work. At the same time, a number of states were developing their own SRTS programs, continuing to build momentum for the movement.
In July 2005, Congress passed federal legislation that established a National Safe Routes to School program. The program, which was signed into law in August 2005, dedicates a total of $612 million towards SRTS from 2005 to 2009. The Federal Highway Administration administers the Safe Routes to School program funds and provides guidance and regulations about SRTS programs. Federal SRTS funds will be distributed to states based on student enrollment, with no state receiving less than $1 million per year. SRTS funds can be used for both infrastructure projects and non-infrastructure activities. The legislation also requires each state to have a Safe Routes to School Coordinator to serve as a central point of contact for the state.
With the federal Safe Routes to School program, there will be a significant increase in funds and institutional support to implement SRTS programs in states and communities across the country. So a new chapter in the history of Safe Routes to School programs might soon be written as the benefits of communities and States establishing and advancing Safe Routes programs and issues are learned.
Source: National Safe Routes to School Center , http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/about-us/mission-and-history
The Regional Safe Routes to School Program is done in partnership with:
WI Safe Routes to School State Network Project
East Central staff serves on a number of committees with the WI SRTS State Network Project. Staff is currently the chair of the unusually hazardous busing committee. East Central has entered into contract with Peter Flucke, WE BIKE, etc. LLC, to explore the state statues on this issue and to develop a plan along with standardize criteria that County Sheriff’s Departments could use to evaluate unusually hazardous bus situations at and around schools.
Staff participated in the 2010 Congressional Visit with Representative Tom Petri in Omro. The event showcased their bicycle maintenance program, their cyclocross course, and was the ground breaking for their new bicycle maintenance shop from the WisDOT SRTS grant.