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Tuesday, July 31, 2012


St. Paul, Minn. – The Minnesota Legislature has created a Safe Routes to School Program for the state but fell short when it came to funding the program.

Supporters of the program say they will work over the next six months to convince the governor’s office to request funding for Safe Routes to School in his budget and to build legislative support for the program.

“Last year, we made huge inroads in the effort to get Minnesota policymakers to understand the importance of creating a Minnesota-based Safe Routes Program,” said Rachel Callanan, Regional Vice President of Advocacy for the American Heart Association. “Next year we will go back to the legislature to help them better understand the need to fund the program."

Safe Routes to School creates safe and convenient opportunities for children and youth to bicycle and walk to and from schools. The program is designed to reverse the decline in children walking and bicycling to schools. Safe Routes to School can also play a critical role in reversing the alarming nationwide trend toward childhood obesity and inactivity.

Under the program, projects that would be eligible for funds include pedestrian and bicycle crossing improvements, traffic diversion improvements near schools, sidewalks, and other infrastructure to help enhance the safety of those who walk and bike.

One of the arguments in favor of creating and funding a Safe Routes to School program for the state is because the existing federal program inadequately funds the needs of Minnesota’s schools to create safer routes for children. In the 2011 funding cycle, only 16 of the 82 applications from Minnesota schools were awarded funding. In addition, the federal program provides no funds directed toward high schools – a key age group for biking and walking to school.

Callanan said that crash statistics point out the need to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety. “In 2009, more than 23,000 children ages 5 to 15 were injured and 250 killed by cars when they were struck while walking or bicycling. Those figures represent 25 percent of all children’s traffic fatalities and 15 percent of all children’s traffic injuries,” she said.

The effort to establish a Safe Routes to School program for Minnesota is supported by 30 organizations, including American Heart Association.

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