Deb Hubsmith, founding executive director of the Safe Routes Partnership, exemplified these qualities on behalf of children and families to create safer communities to walk and bike. Her dedication and commitment to the Safe Route to School movement at the local, state and national level is a source of inspiration, and a testimony to how dedication, a positive attitude, a seemingly inexhaustible source of energy and perseverance has the power to positively impact our most vulnerable populations. Whether at the local, state, national or international level, Deb’s passion for safety in active transportation, and the health of our children, families and communities, was felt by all.
In remembrance of her work and life, the Safe Routes Partnership has created the Hubsmith Safe Routes Champion Award, to be presented to a nominated individual who exemplifies Deb’s leadership, commitment and positive impact on Safe Routes to School advocacy and advancement in their community. Nominees may be from local, regional, state or national levels, and may represent any sector that works in Safe Routes to School – education, transportation, health, advocacy, equity, community or business. Nominees can be employed in the Safe Routes to School world or can be volunteers or leaders in related fields—parent champions, Safe Routes to School coordinators, principals, health professionals, bicycle or pedestrian advocates, and more are all welcome and encouraged. Nominees will be judged on their leadership qualities and vision, impact on advancing Safe Routes to School, skills in building coalitions and political will to achieve their goals, and focus on equity.
2016 Hubsmith Award Winner
2016 Hubsmith Award Nominees
Amber Blake serves as the director of transportation and sustainability at the City of Durango, Colorado, where she is a champion for accessibility, mobility, safety, and transportation. Since 2012, Amber has taken the lead on implementing multi modal transportation projects in Durango, including Safe Routes to School infrastructure projects, increasing bike lane capacity and sharrows citywide, and building connections on streets missing pedestrian and bike infrastructure. Under Amber’s leadership, Durango has become a leader in sustainability and multi-modal transportation planning and programming.
Amber gives credit to the community of Durango for making her work possible. “We have a very active community and a very engaged community. The combination of active lifestyles and engaged residents has helped our program grow,” she said.
In 2015, the City created a new department to house multi modal transportation, Durango’s successful transit operations – which include a downtown trolley, four loop buses and dial-a-ride buses – parking, and sustainability, of which Amber was appointed the Director.
Amber also remains active at schools and on the ground, championing a Safe Routes to School program at Needham Elementary School and partnering with schools, local businesses, nonprofits, and community members to host encouragement events like bike rodeos and walk and roll to school days. Amber and her staff make the extra effort to ensure that Safe Routes to School programs can be implemented without adding an extra burden to teachers and school staff.
“We know that teachers and principals don’t have the extra time to make Safe Routes to School successful. The onus is on us to take care of all the loose ends and deliver a program that runs smoothly,” she said.
“The 2016 Walk-n-Roll-a-Thon was one of the most memorable moments in my Safe Routes to School career. We had more than 550 elementary school students biking and walking all week long, culminating in a bike rodeo and bike parade through the school. Neighbors near the school even came out to cheer on the parade,” said Amber.
Biking and walking have made such an impact at Needham Elementary that the school has integrated Safe Routes to School into their IB curriculum by weaving lessons about active lifestyles and healthy communities into health, civics, and other classes.
“Our vision is that a 7th grader can get around Durango independently by any mode of transportation they choose,” she said. “My goal is to fully connect our transportation network and make Durango streets safe for all modes and abilities.”
Cortney Bloomer, the Western Nevada Safe Routes to School Coordinator, has led the program since its inception in 2011. Western Nevada covers a pretty large, mostly rural area and doesn’t provide a traditional neighborhood walking and biking to school set-up. This hasn’t stopped the program, now in 25 schools, from getting creative with remote bus drop-offs and walk and bike to school events so children can still participate and be physically active.
One of Cortney’s most memorable accomplishments was the first time they did a Ride for Reading (RFR) event at Bordewich Bray Elementary School– one of the more diverse schools in Carson City. RFR is a national program that brings books to kids who otherwise may not have books at home. The books are delivered by adult volunteers by bike, and when the bikers arrive at the school they give a talk to the kids about why books are important, how they got to the school, and bike safety. Then all the kids get to go pick a book or two to keep. Cortney shared that “this particular event was held in conjunction with Bike to School Day, so the kids that had ridden to school that day got released from class early and got their bikes. When we arrived on our bikes, the kids were waiting for us and rode in with us as part of the bike parade. All their friends could see them riding with us, and they were so proud of themselves. It was such a fun event and a really meaningful way to tie academics to bikes and bike safety. It is also very popular with schools because of the books!”
Cortney is working hard to bring biking to the more isolated, rural communities through a bike repair trailer. “When I go to these schools out in rural areas, kids often say, ‘I had a bike, but it broke and my parents can’t fix it.’” The nearest bike shop is 40 miles away, so they are contracting with a bike shop in Carson City who supplies a bike mechanic and a nonprofit, Muscle Powered, that promotes walking and biking to get a second trailer to bring out to these communities. They bring the tools and parts and teach parents how to fix the bikes. Also, people can donate bikes they don’t want and they refurbish the bikes and give them to people who want them.
“We couldn’t do the program without the support of teachers and administrators. They are awesome. But I do this for the kids,” shares Cortney. It is her hope that “all kids understand the value of physical activity and really enjoy taking part in it, and that active transportation is a viable option for kids, families and communities.”
Alicia Bowman’s work over the past eleven years as a Newton, Massachusetts pedestrian leader and eight years as a Safe Routes to School advocate has greatly impacted the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and abilities in her community.
She started with SRTS when her children were in elementary school and while she promoted the SRTS message at her children’s elementary school, she also recognized the importance of the program throughout the community. She helped develop the Newton SRTS Task Force - a group of school representatives, community members, DPW and the Police department. Through the Task Force, she has not only encouraged walking and biking practices for the schools, but she has also worked to change policies within her local community in order to make active transportation safer, including adding pedestrian and bicycle safety into the school’s PE curriculum.
Alicia is involved in many innovative projects in the community that relate to Safe Routes to School such as the middle school bicycle safety curriculum that she is working to develop with the district’s PE Health and Wellness Department. She also created and led a summer camp endeavor, Smart Streets, which aides middle school students in learning how to design streets for all modes of transportation. This summer the students worked together to come up with a project to improve student transportation in Newton. Their big idea is called “Kind Streets” - routes that can be made safe and easy for kids biking and walking and where cars, bikes and walkers take responsibility to be kind to each other. They mapped out an initial “kind street” route that uses low volume streets and safer crossings, and finished the week by creating a power point presentation that was given to a group of community members and other stakeholders. The kids want to stay involved and help get this first route completed, and are appealing to the Transportation Head to consider getting the path completed.
Alicia worked tirelessly on a multi-year campaign to pass a sidewalk snow clearing ordinance in the City of Newton for year-round sidewalk access for all. Her efforts in Newton are being emulated across the Commonwealth, as other Safe Routes to School coordinators hear about the Tour and use the sidewalk snow toolkit adapted from the materials she helped create for the sidewalk snow ordinance.
As Alicia advocates for Safe Routes to School in Newton, she has been conscious that for some families and residents, walking or biking is their only choice. With this in mind, she has worked hard to complete the city’s sidewalk network, made sure that sidewalks are cleared of snow and debris, fought for keeping school bus routes and even campaigned to change the school districts so that children are closer to their schools and do not have to walk long distances in unsafe conditions.
Not only is Alicia an advocate for the community, she practices everything she preaches. She is hardly seen without her bright jacket, her bike and her helmet. Her vision for SRTS in Newton “is to continue making infrastructure improvements and make walking & biking the primary way our students get to school.”
As Safe Routes to School Director in Idaho’s Treasure Valley, Lisa Brady's encouragement, leadership, and drive has created integral momentum and change for walking and biking to and from schools and around the local communities. Lisa is part of a small team that fills the summer months with countless bicycle rodeos and uses the winter months to get into school classrooms and educate in a fun, interactive manner. She is an example to fellow Safe Routes to School coordinators to ride year round and to load up bikes and trailers for rodeos and in-class presentations, no matter the weather.
Advocating for walking and bicycling in Idaho can be difficult due to the local mindset and culture. Lisa is constantly blogging, updating Facebook, and taking pictures of bicycling and walking hazards, benefits, and concerns in her local area. This hasn’t stopped Lisa’s work on Safe Routes to School in her community. She has been influential in proposing change in the way they teach new and young drivers by encouraging the addition of education pertaining to walking and bicycling into state driver’s education curriculum.
A colleague of Lisa’s commented, “I am constantly reminded by Lisa that change comes slowly, not to be overwhelmed and to remember the joys of helping children.”
Bringing the benefits of Safe Routes to School to all children is important to Lisa. She volunteers her time and expertise at family shelters, refugee events, through the Boise Bicycle Project, and other community groups like the YMCA to teach children with disabilities how to ride bikes. She was also a part of setting up Boise’s first bicycle share program, Boise Green Bike, allowing those without bicycles to move around downtown Boise.
The next step for Treasure Valley’s Safe Routes to School program is to have the schools start keeping records on and evaluate all of the crashes and incidents that happen around schools. Data is crucial for change so they will be incorporating help from Boise State University to complete this project.
Lisa shared, “I envision that the State Board of Education includes Safe Routes to School education as a module in health or PE, where students have a chance to learn to ride a bike and the rules of the road. In this vision we are able to provide bicycles to those in need, ensuring they have transportation access of all types. When we have equal access to safe transportation, we all win!”
Helen Brown works as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Movement Sciences at the University of Idaho in Moscow, a small city of 20,000. Moscow increasingly has a healthy active lifestyle ethos, which is apparent with the increased investment in sidewalk, bike lanes, paths/trails, greenways, and other active travel infrastructure. Working with funding levels of under $30,000 per year, she realized the importance of building an effective and engaged coalition of diverse partners and helped forge strong partnerships among the University of Idaho, the City, nine public and private schools and community stakeholders over the past nine years. Prior to this work, the schools lacked a safe route to school and were unsafe. However, after the work of the coalition, currently all schools in Moscow are connected with sidewalks and safe routes to school (see interactive map here).
Helen said, “I feel that building a strong stakeholder team with support from city, county, school, university, business, parents, and students is fundamental to the success of our work. Ultimately, there is an increased emphasis on active travel, safety and consideration given to the important contribution of active travel to health. We take a public health approach to our work and are working hard on system, policy and environmental strategies along with education and behavior change.”
She is also working with others to expand SRTS into rural Idaho communities through the UI TRIO program, which serves diverse and low-income communities. They are utilizing STEM methods to engage low-income first generation college-bound students in active travel assessment to increase awareness of the built-environment for walking and biking, and to help small rural communities with funding opportunities for infrastructure.
Another way they collaborate with the University of Idaho is through students offering more than 150-200 hours of service learning hours to Safe Routes efforts each year, and the work of engineering students on significant design projects. For example, an engineering student design of the middle school parking lot became the foundation of a $500,000 + parking lot re-design effort to enhance safety and encourage active versus vehicular travel.
The SRTS coalition in Moscow hosts three major events a year, International Walk to School Day, a Polar Walk in February to encourage all weather walking and biking and Fill the Racks, held on Bike to School Day. They also partner with law enforcement to offer bike safety education at the Officer Newbill Kids Safety Fair, reaching more than 700 children and families with a bike rodeo, free helmets, helmet fitting, helmet decorating and bike safety education. This is just one example from many where SRTS in Moscow partners with others to increase impact.
Helen’s vision for the future of Safe Routes to School is “that active travel to school will receive the same attention that school busing does, and that schools begin to fund active travel education and encouragement and integrate it into their curriculum.” She also hopes that, “Safe Routes biking and walking to school becomes the norm and that the current culture of vehicle travel as the primary mode of transportation shifts.” And finally, she said, “I find that the lowest income areas of our community have the least available and safe infrastructure for enjoying walking and biking to school or anywhere for that matter. I am committed to closing these gaps of inequality and I speak out for prioritizing these areas for active travel improvements.”
Carmen Burks has been advocating for Safe Routes to School since 2010, starting the Safe Routes to School Program at Cincinnati Public Schools out of her personal passion for getting children safely to school. It is now a district-wide program, engaging a wide array of organizations who promote, support and expand the Safe Routes to School throughout the greater community.
Some of her most impressive work has been through the creation of the Allegiance Project, funded through a multi-million dollar grant from the Department of Justice. It provides a stipend for parent "conductors" to walk the children to school, incorporates an exciting array of experiences into the walk, including walking with a Cincinnati Parks naturalist once a month to teach the children about "nature in the neighborhood" as well as an evaluation plan for the program. As a result of Carmen’s work, 8 Cincinnati Public Schools had walking school buses in the 2015-16 school year and at least 12 more schools had a walking school bus in 2016-17.
Carmen received the 2014 Green Business Award from the Cincinnati Business Courier for her work, was invited to serve on the Mayor of Cincinnati's "Kitchen Cabinet" and is an admired and respected leader in the city.
Her expansion of the Safe Routes to School Program into a district-wide initiative of Cincinnati Public Schools, serves a predominantly low income (71.8 percent economically disadvantaged), minority population. The Allegiance Project - Walking School Bus makes sure that children in the most high-risk neighborhoods are walked safely to school each day by conductors who are paid to assure the sustainability of that program. Far from seeing the walk to school as their only commitment to those children, the conductors are often able to spot problems like children with inadequate clothing or possible family issues, which they are trained to report to the school to be addressed in an appropriate way.
Carmen shared, “My vision is that the Safe Routes to School Program in my community would allow for our kids that walk to school every day to have a safe means to get to school on time and be ready to learn every day.”
Jennie Chamberlain has been a local safe streets leader in the Silver Lake community of Los Angeles for the past five years. She initiated her commitment to Safe Routes to School by leading walking school bus activities with her own kids and others at Ivanhoe Elementary School, but was a stalwart champion of Safe Routes to School well in advance of the formalization of the program in Los Angeles in 2011. She has led Walk to School Day events for Ivanhoe for the past five years with more than 150 kids participating each year. She recognizes the role of schools as anchors of community and has built a strong base of relationships across the spectrum from parents, staff and local school and district administration, community-based organizations and local businesses to focus attention on the needs of safe routes of travel to/from school.
Even though Jennie was already running efficient local Walk to School activities, she took time from her schedule to support the development of citywide efforts, and since their launch of the annual Walk to School Day program in 2012, Jennie has been a lead organizer. She recognizes that the success of Walk to School Day is predicated on the volunteer organizer, and that hosting Walk to School Day events is one of a suite of Safe Routes to School “tools” that provide a high-visibility, media platform for spotlighting traffic safety issues. Each year, she has secured participation of the Council Office and non-school constituents, as they also traverse the same routes as students and children.
Jennie and her husband Dan Chamberlain have been intensely engaged in the controversial Glendale/Hyperion Viaduct Replacement Project connecting Silver Lake with Atwater Village by championing for safe pedestrian and cyclist facilities along and crossing the facility and alerting hundreds of community members to the facts about the safety of viaduct redesign. She reached out to business owners to discuss the redesign, specifically how it would eliminate a sidewalk on one side of the bridge with minimal cycling facilities. They agreed this would limit the ability for their customers to have safe walking and cycling paths to their shops and restaurants. She gathered more than 100 signatures for a community petition notifying the City of Los Angeles about the impacts that the viaduct redesign would have on safe children’s access to the local schools as well as the neighborhood residential and business community. The outcome of the Glendale/Hyperion Viaduct and Rowena Road Diet projects are still pending, but Jennie continues her engagement of community members, city council representatives, local media, and city departments to ensure a safe and positive outcome for safe streets and healthy communities.
Jennie regularly challenges her city councilmembers to make sure that they are addressing the critical traffic safety and safe routes to school issues in their community. She made sure that Safe Routes to School and street safety were critical issues addressed by all candidates in a recent city council election in her district. She regularly attends public hearings and community meetings in order to stay informed and to fight for safe streets in her community and throughout the city of Los Angeles. She has been engaged in the development of the City’s new Mobility Plan 2035 which looks to developing a balanced transportation system that provides safe access for all road users.
Deborah Murphy, of Los Angeles Walks, said, "Jennie ‘takes it to the streets’ and ‘takes it to the next level’ on everything that she does. Every community should have their own Jennie Chamberlain." Jennie has built and nurtured such a strong walking culture at Ivanhoe School that it has become a community passion.
Donald Christian has been Escambia County’s Safe Routes to School Coordinator in Pensacola, Florida since 2009. He has facilitated meetings with elected officials, county staff, organizations, and communities throughout the County to create a sidewalk master plan. This is a five year working master plan that Don updates every year. He also keeps a close and open line of communication with neighborhoods before, during, and after construction of sidewalks and devices by attending neighborhood groups meetings.
With the support of County staff, LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) funds and Safe Routes to School grant funds, Don has been the key person responsible for the installation of 35 miles of sidewalk around three high schools, eight middle schools and twelve elementary schools as well as the installation of 20 radar speed check solar signs. Don has also created a GIS layer identifying all the sidewalks in Escambia County - a very important tool in sustaining sidewalk structures and devices over time.
Because of Don’s hard work and determination to provide safe routes to school and throughout Escambia County communities, he has applied for and been awarded Safe Routes to School grants that have increased his budget from an initial $350,000 to $1,000,000. Motivated by his success in providing safer routes to school, Escambia County has added $1,500,000 to his budget for neighborhood enhancement including traffic calming, ADA walkway upgrades, and bus facilities. His current budget is approximately $2,500,000.
Don has achieved many positive outcomes over the years by helping provide desperately needed ADA compliant sidewalks and pedestrian crossing devices so that children can now travel to and from school more safely. The Escambia County community as well as the Escambia-Santa Rosa community traffic safety team consider Don to be both a safety leader and a true champion for Safe Routes to School.
Judy Crocker has served as Safe Routes to School coordinator in Lexington, MA for 11 years, but her impact on the community goes back at least 25 years. As the founder and former chair of Lexington’s Sidewalk Committee, Judy helped establish a foundation of strong community support for safe sidewalks and bikeways.
Unlike the federal and MA state model, Lexington’s Safe Routes program includes all methods of student transportation. This includes walking, biking, carpooling, single occupancy vehicles and busing. They strongly feel that each mode is intertwined in creating a healthy and sustainable approach to safety, traffic calming and urban planning.
In 2011, school principals and neighbors complained that parent traffic was negatively impacting student safety. Safe Routes to School surveyed parents to find out why students choose their method of school transportation. With the second highest school bus fee in the state ($600/student), more and more parents were driving their students to school. The Safe Routes to School team requested a one-year subsidy to cut the school bus fee in half, which they received with school bus ridership increasing dramatically. The selectmen understood that more had to be done, and appointed Judy as chair of an ad hoc School Transportation and Safety Committee. Today, Lexington boasts a comprehensive school transportation mitigation policy, has clearer traffic plan communication among the schools, parents and police, and has created partnerships with the municipal bus service, school bus vendor and local after-school programs. They have seen bus ridership increase by 19 percent, walkers/bikers by 20 percent and idling and single occupancy vehicles has decreased by 36 percent.
Judy’s philosophy for effecting positive change encompasses best practices, defining levels of expectations and having shared objectives among involved stakeholders. Through her work with Lexington’s Safe Routes program, she has successfully created a sustainable model that is inclusive of every student across her district and prides itself in actively meeting the needs of today’s student.
Judy said, “With the advent of MA legislation for Complete Streets, it is my hope that Lexington continues on its current path of collaborative pedestrian advocacy and infrastructure work. I believe that students, school and municipal staff, and the greater community could benefit from the creation of a broad-based, multi-language educational program. There are many unsung heroes who collectively work in tandem to create a safe and welcoming environment for our students. Whether the task involves plowing a snow-covered sidewalk or taking an extra classroom moment to perform a transportation tally, student safety truly takes a village.”
Don Cross is the “Bruce Springsteen” (The Boss) of SRTS in Phoenix. He is a one-man show that organizes school assemblies on walking and bicycling safety, organizes multiple Walk-to-School and Bike-to-School events each year, coordinates bike helmet fittings and giveaways, obtains grants from GOHS for bike helmets, obtains grants for safety improvements to expand safe walking opportunities, organizes community Bike events related to schools, is involved in crossing guard training for Phoenix and surrounding communities, and oversees all activities related to school traffic control at the nearly 500 Phoenix schools.
Reflecting on what makes Phoenix’s Safe Routes to School program thrive, Don gives credit to community partners and to the schools themselves. “We have some exemplary schools that have expanded their programs year after year. It’s thanks to the champions at those schools working with the city to keep the programs going. The amazing weather doesn’t hurt, either.”
In addition to securing more than $2 million in funding for infrastructure and an additional $2 million for education for the city of Phoenix, Don has established strong connections with the district and school administration to grow enthusiasm and support for the program. “All of the school district administrations and principals of the 26 districts and nearly 500 schools know Don and know that they can trust him and rely on him for assistance with traffic safety issues or for Safe Routes to School activities,” wrote Don’s coworker in his Hubsmith award nomination form.
Don also makes Safe Routes to School fun for students. He has even created a band that composes and plays school safety songs called "Safety Patrol." Don writes and records all of the music with the band, plays drums, and is one of the lead vocalists.
“I’ve been doing this for 11 years, and my vision is always to get a little bigger and a little better every year. Reaching out to more folks, getting more schools and districts involved. There’s always more we can do.”
New Haven, Connecticut’s residents, particularly children, live in a demonstrably healthier, safer city thanks to Lee Cruz, Community Outreach Director for the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.
Fair Haven’s urban walking trails exemplify his work. When he first moved to Fair Haven, Lee noticed that the area had a number of parks and green spaces, yet few were accessible and safe. Moreover, the schools in the area often required dangerous walks for schoolchildren. Thus, Lee led the development an initial plan for a Fair Haven Greenway system. Through his efforts, the City of New Haven adopted the plan in 2004 and began improving green spaces along the route. Lee, however, knew that such an endeavor would require broad support over a sustained period. Lee founded the highly active Chatham Square Neighborhood Association, and eventually won a successful, multi-thousand-dollar grant to further the trail system.
This year, the Fair Haven urban walking trail system reached its fruition. Lee held community meetings where residents mapped and simplified the best walking routes to connect green spaces, homes, and schools. As a father of a young student himself, he emphasized the need to create safe walking routes to schools, and thus the trails reach each school in the area. He then worked with a local architect to design and install custom signage and maps. After further trail clean-ups, the routes are now fully signed, cleaned, and utilized. Lee’s work was so impressive that branch routes to other neighborhoods are now in the works, using his model.
When others first meet Lee, the most common reaction is awe at his dedication. He operates by a checklist he developed of ten principles for building collaborations, a model for how to organize for Safe Routes to School initiatives. As a Safe Routes champion, Lee realizes that forming a community solidarity is as important as logistical details, so he routinely organizes community potlucks, dine-out nights to support local businesses, festivals, parades, parties, and more.
Lee represents the model of a Safe Routes champion, someone who not only shows unmatched personal passion, but also a leader who knows how to bring in new people and excite longtime advocates. It is Lee’s vision that has helped make Fair Haven the safe, green, well-connected neighborhood it is today—and will continue to be into the future.
Tom Dodd, principal of Lesher Middle School, is a Safe Routes to School leader within the Fort Collins public school system. Lesher Middle School, a small downtown school, has been involved with the City’s Safe Routes to School program since its inception in 2008. Right from the start, Principal Dodd embraced SRTS as a means for helping his school achieve its environmental and health-related goals.
Some examples of the school’s emphasis onSafe Routes to School include: a comprehensive traffic-safety plan encompassing streets and parking lots adjacent to the school, enhanced traffic-calming measures during arrival and dismissal times, a radar-speed-indicator sign in front of the school, replacement of “wheel-bender” bike racks with better-designed racks with a capacity for 250 bikes, regular SRTS educational programming during PE classes, year-round Biking Viking incentive program, Lesher Annual 3K Fun Run/Walk and Lesher Bike to School Week and Tour de Fit, a bike-centric celebration with daily prizes, activities, and incentives. One Lesher Bike to School Week boasted nearly 40 percent of Lesher students and staff biking more than 3,400 total miles to/from school, during an abnormally rainy week.
“Teachers are the ones who created bike week, they’re outstanding…innovation doesn’t come from top down, its bottom up. It’s the people closest to kids biking to work and going, ‘Hey! Let’s get bike racks and a cycle aid station,’” says Principal Dodd.
In 2015 Lesher received a Safe Routes to School bike-repair station (tools, pump, work stand) that is used in “Extended Learning Opportunity” classes. Lesher is also slated to receive a new automated bike-ped counting system in 2016 to help track and incentivize active transportation.
Lesher’s SRTS initiatives have spurred other schools and the school district’s Wellness Program to develop new facilities and programming to support active transportation. In fact, a plan was created to install 41 total bike fix-it stations at school campuses throughout the district by 2017.
Principal Dodd is dedicated to building a better community through reduction of greenhouse gases and creating a safer place for students and other community members to bike and walk. A special crosswalk installed for his school to get students across a busy arterial street also serves the entire community and is an important link in the City of Fort Collins’ “Low-stress Bike Network.” The bike fix-it station at his school, and at other district schools, are also available for community members to use.
“Team work makes a dream work,” is something Principal Dodd likes to say, and he is a perfect picture of it in action. He jumped at the opportunity to help when a nearby elementary school requested a favor on International Walk to School Day. To give all students a chance to participate in Laurel Elementary’s International Walk to School Day celebration -- including those who normally ride the school bus -- a scheme was devised to have the bused students dropped off at Lesher Middle School and then walk as a group three-quarters of a mile to Laurel Elementary. It was a wonderful gesture by Principal Dodd to allow the students to be dropped off at Lesher, and it was a glorious celebration for the kids who walked, accompanied by a small marching band from Colorado State University.
Principal Dodd is one of Fort Collins’ biggest cheerleaders for SRTS, not only among his colleagues in the school district but also in the community, and his dedicated leadership at Lesher Middle School inspires his local community to continue to reach higher and strive for ever greater success with Safe Routes to School.
Skii Fleeton-Essenfield, affectionately known as “Bicycle Mum”, is a force to be reckoned with in Chula Vista, California, the second largest city in the San Diego metropolitan area. She single-handedly started a Safe Routes to School program at her son’s elementary school (Marshall Elementary School), encouraging fellow parents to allow their children to walk, bike, scoot, or skate to school.
She invited Olympians and professional BMX racers to the school to engage with the children, show their medals, and perform tricks. She also solicited help from WD40 to hold bike maintenance classes for the students after school, and then solicited donations from local businesses to provide incentives to students who used active transportation to get to school on Bike to School Day. Their first Bike to School Day in 2015 resulted in 400 out of 700 kids walking, biking, scooting, and skating to school – more than half of the student population!
To sustain the momentum after bike to school day, she held monthly bike trains out of two neighborhoods close to school. The bike trains at the school were off to a slow start but have now become a family affair. Parents pull out bikes that they rode as children and express the joy of riding them again after so many years. These same parents are now enlisted to run the bike trains on their own since they know the routes. With so many new leaders encouraged by Skii, the program will continue to reach encouraging new heights year after year.
Skii is car-free, and does all of her errands with her family on a bicycle. Humble and determined, she cheerfully shares her love of cycling to all those around her. She is an ambassador that shows others that they too can use a bicycle as an option for regular transportation. Chula Vista has made inroads on improving bicycle infrastructure, but she lives in Eastlake Chula Vista, a master-planned area of the city that is known for its car-centered culture. As a result, she is a member of the Chula Vista Bike Walk Committee, an all-volunteer committee of residents and business owners that works in collaboration with the City to improve public infrastructure for biking and walking.
Determined to become a League of American Bicyclists Certified instructor, Skii knew that she needed to take Traffic Skills 101 as a prerequisite. She enrolled in a course 54 miles away from her home, and brought her 12-year-old son with her. They are now both proud graduates of Traffic Skills 101.
As someone who formerly lived in the Netherlands, she understands the relationship between education, infrastructure and policy and thus works on all different levels simultaneously—engaging children and their families as well as working with policymakers to improve public infrastructure so that more people can feel safe riding their bikes on the road. Skii’s passion for cycling is infectious. She is genuinely in love with riding a bicycle and shares this enthusiasm with everyone she encounters – a natural advocate for bringing safe routes to all.
“Do you walk to school?” “Why not?” “How far do you live from your school?” This is a typical line of questioning that Sergeant Thomas Groux of Winchester, Massachusetts will go through upon meeting students (including high school students) for the first time. Parents of students are asked similar questions. For Sgt. Groux walking to school is something all students should participate in. Additionally, when speaking to parents and students, the Sergeant will typically recount studies that show that those who walk to school will learn better because more oxygen is flowing to the brain.
Sgt. Groux has continuously promoted walking to school in Winchester since the fall of 2009. Over the years he has met with numerous school parent and staff organizations to discuss best practices to encourage students to walk to school for health benefits, reduction in traffic congestion in front of the schools during drop off and pick up times and to foster a sense of independence in children. He has made sure the police department secures additional resources (motorcycles, additional cruisers) for special events like the International Walk to School Day or the weekly “Walk Wednesdays.”
Because Sgt. Groux is such an advocate for drop-off alternatives like remote drop-off spots and walking school buses, both are now done on a regular basis with every school in the district. The SRTS program has been sustained through the years with volunteerism, emanating from the schools with concerned parents, staff and principals. Additionally, the program has been sustainable within the police department due to Sgt. Groux passing his philosophy on the benefits of walking to school along to all of the police officers he supervises.
Over the years, he has been called on frequently to advise on how to best start and organize programs for different schools by using incentives and implementing best practices for safe walking. Once Sgt. Groux gets one school gets involved, other schools wish to join after seeing the great progress being made.
He understands that enthusiasm is key when constantly pushing for more students to walk to and from school. He also knows when you get students to walk it’s important that there is some sort of recognition, whether something tangible like a plastic police badge or verbal praise, which he always gives the children. Complaints from parents and motorists regarding drop-off and pick up procedures at all the schools has significantly dropped over the years, thanks to Sgt. Groux and his efforts to encourage students to take active modes of transportation to and from school.
Sgt. Groux’s goal is “to have walking continue to increase in Winchester where we can consistently get the percentage of walkers to approach 70% or higher, to bring it back to the 1969 level of walking. Then I would like to have some sort of system in place where this can be perpetual and be sustained over many years.”
Peter Hurst works for the Boulder Valley School District's Transportation Department as a Student Transportation Coordinator. His innovative program, Trip Tracker, partners with local businesses to provide “Trip Tracker dollars” to students and even district employees that can be spent at participating local businesses. Students earn these dollars by walking, biking, carpooling and bus riding to school in an effort to discourage single rider vehicles and to encourage healthier, more active lifestyles. This program not only educates students in alternative modes of transportation, but has shown a significant reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) to and from school and reduction of vehicle traffic in the vicinity of schools.
According to the Trip Tracker surveys, in just the first two months of the 2015-2016 school year, more than 62,000 miles of travel were completed by Trip Tracker participants by foot or bike for the 18 participating Boulder schools. Prior to the Trip Tracker program, many of these miles would have been completed in the back of a car. According to the full fall 2015 data, Trip Tracker participants recorded more than 144,000 walking, bicycling, skating or scooter trips to school.
Peter helped Boulder County Transportation replicate a version of Trip Tracker within the St. Vrain Valley School District (SVVSD), and they have been implementing Trip Tracker for almost two school years now. Despite having to stray from some of the original processes to make it work for a different school district, they are off to a strong start. In the first year of implementation, the Trip Tracker programs had a goal to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 30 percent and both programs exceeded expectations, with SVVSD reducing VMT by 34 percent and BVSD reducing VMT by 41 percent.
This data clearly demonstrates the impact of the program on school trips; however, one Boulder Transportation official shared that “the real value of the program is more difficult to measure and longitudinal in nature. Its true value is the impact on long-term culture change and creating a generation of students who will grow into adults that will travel differently. I imagine that kids who have participated in the Trip Tracker program and who have embraced the benefits of walking or bicycling to school will continue to travel in sustainable ways as adults.”
Peter’s approach to promoting Safe Routes to School in his district “is to make the reduction of car traffic in front of schools my top priority. By reducing the number of cars in front of school it makes it easier for us to operate school buses and it makes it safer for kids to walk and bike. It also reduces tail pipe emissions in front of schools and improves our relationship with school neighbors. To accomplish this vision we encourage and support all modes of transportation to school other than single family cars. To this end we reward walkers, bikers, bus riders and carpoolers as well as families who park a few blocks away from school and walk their kids in.”
Wendi Kallins, with Deb Hubsmith, co-founded the Marin Safe Routes to Schools program in Marin County, California in 2000. As the first national model program for a suburban area, its success helped with the passage of the national Safe Routes to Schools legislation, allowing programs across the country to seek funding.
Wendi researched successful international programs to create the first countywide Safe Routes to School program in the nation. She united constituents and formed community task forces, developed walking and biking safety programs for children in PE classes and recruited volunteer parent leaders to promote Safe Routes to School events and activities at schools. Under her leadership, nine pilot schools increased walking and biking from 21 percent to 38 percent in the first two years.
To sustain the program, she solicited the local transportation authority to include Safe Routes to School in the transportation sales tax, which successfully passed in 2004. The sales tax funds engineering services, crossing guards, infrastructure improvements and education and encouragement programs, and set a precedent for funding other Safe Routes to School programs throughout the country.
Under Wendi’s leadership, 80 percent of the public schools throughout Marin County now participate in Safe Routes to School. She expanded the program to cover K-12, adding a teen program to empower middle and high school students to lead environmental awareness and encouragement programs in their schools. Today, 50 percent of Marin County students travel green to school with many schools achieving as high as 60-70 percent green trips. In most participating middle schools, more than 50 percent of the students now take active trips to school. Safe Routes to School is now institutionalized in all Marin County Schools with official school district policies, and more than $30 million in improvements have been implemented across the Marin County.
Prior to the National Center’s role as Safe Routes to School trainers, Wendi helped launch the program across the nation traveling to more than 46 communities to instruct them on how to create successful Safe Routes to School programs. She developed the first national Safe Routes to School training, and trained some of today’s leaders in the Safe Routes to Schools movement. Wendi has also worked to ensure that the benefits of Safe Routes to School reach all children. One example is in her development of the Women on Wheels program in which Latino women received refurbished bikes and were provided a free, four-part class in Spanish to learn how to ride. She hired a bi-lingual volunteer coordinator and has developed a partnership with Health and Human Services which has assigned staff to coordinate Safe Routes to Schools programs in at risk communities of Marin. These are just two examples from a list of many showing how diligently Wendi works to advocate for the safety needs of all families, ensuring that their voices are heard and that Safe Routes opportunities are made more available.
“We are well on our way to serving all students in K-12 in all the public and some of the private schools. We want every student to have a safe way to travel on their own to school. We are seeing a culture emerging that recognizes that children walking and biking to school is good for their health, good for the environment and good for the community. For those who live too far away, we are working on bringing back yellow school buses so that all children have a safe way to get to school,” summed up Wendi. Her tenacity, vision and leadership have been a crucial part in the cultural shift taking place in Marin County.
Terri Kindberg is the Executive Director of the Chautauqua Children's Safety Education Village (CCSEV) in Ashville, New York. During her tenure, she has taken what began as a five acre piece of land with just a handful of buildings and skillfully turned it into a community landmark for child safety. To date, more than 16,000 students from across Western NY and Northeast PA have experienced programming involving fire, traffic, bicycle, drugs, and other aspects of safety since the Village opened its doors.
She has successfully managed one Safe Routes to School grant and is currently working in cooperation with the Sheriff's Department on a second one. As you look across the Village, you can see representation from all aspects of the community at large. There is a church, hospital, school building, jail, McDonald's, and many other organizations who have built small buildings in support of the cause. Terri negotiated many of these projects, and reached out to county organizations for donations and in-kind contributions.
Realizing that some children were not able to attend the Safety Village's Safe Routes to School classes due to limited school budgets, Terri reached out to local corporations for support. In one case, she was able to have a company underwrite the cost of transportation for a large group of children. Through her work with the first responder community, fire departments are now underwriting the cost of transportation and/or the class fee for children within their own communities.
The Village holds special classes that include only autistic children whose special needs are alike. The children respond to the hands-on training, which is a much easier way for them to learn and remember what they have learned. The children are taken into the Village and are taught sign recognition, rules of the road, pedestrian crossing, riding with traffic, proper hand signs, proper helmet fitting, and crossing with a traffic light.
Additionally, Terri makes sure that children with all types of disabilities are integrated into the traffic and fire safety education classes. A handicapped bicycle was donated to the Village and is used for students who are unable to ride a standard bicycle. Students who need to use wheelchairs participate in the class by learning how to use proper hand signals that they practice throughout the Village. Terri has made the Village the place where schools and organizations think of first for child safety through Safe Routes to School, and has worked tirelessly to make sure the message reaches as many children as possible.
Karen Lankshofer works as a supervisor at the Rush-Henrietta School-age Child Care Program in Henrietta, NY. In this role, she emphasizes safe cycling and has conducted numerous bike rodeos for the students in her care. In the fall of 2012, she encouraged the principal of Crane Elementary School, to sponsor a Walk to School Day. The event was repeated as a Bike to School Day in May 2013, with the enthusiastic participation of students, parents and staff. Since then, Crane’s Parent Teacher Organization has taken the initiative and has held Bike or Walk to School Days every year.
She has worked tirelessly to improve the cycling and walking conditions for the children of the Rush-Henrietta Central School District in New York. She informed the District’s Health and Safety Committee of the current conditions for cyclists and walkers within the school district. She also works closely with the District Safety Officer to suggest changes in existing policies that would benefit those within the school community who would prefer to use alternative means of transportation.
Karen was instrumental in persuading the Town of Henrietta to apply for a grant to create an Active Transportation Plan for the Town. The application was successful, and Karen was asked to join the advisory committee to create the plan. Her focus was to include provisions that allow school children to get to school safely without having to be driven by their parents, such as the strategic placement of bike racks, installation of new sidewalks and providing an increased number of crossing guards. The Active Transportation Plan was presented to the Town Board in December, and Karen was invited to continue to advise the Town on the implementation of the plan.
Karen does not confine her efforts to her own school district. As a newly appointed member of the Board of Directors of the Rochester Cycling Alliance, she has suggested that the RCA sponsor a women’s conference on building better communities through cycling and walking. The Board agreed, and she is now working with RCA to create the conference.
She understands that it is important not only to talk the talk but to ride the ride too. She cycles to work, shopping and other activities at all times of the year, and is keenly aware that she is seen by her students and their families as she rides through town. Students greet her daily from open car windows as they drive past her. The fact that the parents see her cycling to school opens the door for many important conversations. These conversations have given Karen the opportunity to encourage and convince parents that they too can be proactive advocates for better conditions for cyclists and walkers in their community.
Karen said, “My vision for Safe Routes to School in my community is for grass roots initiatives to become so numerous and so strong that the school administration will no longer be reluctant to make changes to its restrictive walk/bike to school policies, and will, in fact, encourage its students to use alternative means of transportation. I also hope that the number of citizens advocating for safer roads and improved infrastructure will increase and become more vocal. It all rests upon the individual to make a difference in his/her community.”
Karen has inspired teachers and students alike to walk or cycle as a means of transportation. Through her passionate action and advocacy, Karen has sown the seeds of change in her community, creating a change in thought and a realization that alternatives to motorized transportation are viable.
Dr. Sarah Lerand, pediatrician and parent advocate at McKinley School in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, began her Safe Routes to School efforts after she faced difficulty walking her son across a busy street to school. She noticed many cars at school drop off and discovered in her research that more than 90 percent of Wauwatosa students live less than two miles from school.
She started by organizing the city’s first Walk to School Day at McKinley School in October 2010, and through garnering community support with a petition signed by more than 300 parents asking the city to help support the development of a Safe Routes to School program. An alderman was appointed by the Mayor to work with Sarah, the Wauwatosa School District, and McKinley Safe Routes to School parents to provide guidance in the development of Safe Routes to School policies and programs.
Her events ensure that students with disabilities are included in all activities. The joy on the faces of parents and children with disabilities who participate in Walk and Bike to School Days is always a highlight. After the first Bike to School Day event in 2012, a mother of a child with Down’s syndrome came up to Sarah in tears. Her son, who always gets fatigued, was so determined that he biked the whole way to school!
Sarah has engaged a diverse group of people to support the Safe Routes to School mission, building lasting connections with parents, the Wauwatosa School District, the City of Wauwatosa, Wauwatosa Police, Fire and Public Health Departments, Wauwatosa Neighborhood Associations, Wisconsin Bike Federation, Safe Kids of Southeast Wisconsin, and local businesses. Many of these organizations sent representatives to attend monthly meetings held in her living room. She presented these stakeholders with her vision and listened to their ideas and suggestions before taking action.
She gradually and methodically built and expanded McKinley’s program by demonstrating unparalleled successes in the following areas:
- Traffic accident and violation data collection
- School surveys to determine baseline data on walking and biking to school
- Annual Walk and Bike to School Days
- Walking school buses and a crossing guard ambassador program
- Inroad crosswalk signs
- Promotion at events such as the 4th of July parade
These successful efforts culminated in 2012 with Sarah’s successful writing of three grants, totaling more than $200,000, for solutions ranging from highly visible crosswalk and speed limit signage to planning studies to educational and awareness programs.
Sarah expanded the success of McKinley to all ten Wauwatosa elementary schools, by providing crossing guard kits and sharing best practices in districtwide meetings. This led to her fourth successful grant, funding the hiring of a part-time district coordinator in January of 2016. In six years, Safe Routes to School has become a well-respected and defining characteristic of Wauwatosa thanks to Sarah’s three “P” approach - Passion, Patience and Persistence.
Kidical Mass is an international movement to make cycling accessible to families. It all started with Shane MacRhodes in Eugene, Oregon. Since its initiation almost a decade ago, it has grown to more than 50 groups worldwide. The Eugene Kidical Mass group integrates with Safe Routes to School at local schools, and many families who participate in Kidical Mass rides go on to become Safe Routes to School champions and lead Walk+Bike to School events. Youth in Eugene who have grown up with Kidical Mass have become advocates for walking and biking and have testified before City Council for complete streets improvements.
In addition to starting Kidical Mass, Shane serves as the Safe Routes to School Program Manager for the Eugene 4J School District. Under Shane’s leadership, the program has grown from one middle school in 2007 to serving more than 44 schools in three districts.
Shane has participated in numerous school site redesigns and secured funding to purchase and install improved bike parking facilities, and works tirelessly advocating for safe and convenient walking and biking infrastructure as schools are rebuilt or moved to new locations. He secured $1,000,000 through a school bond measure to implement both on- and off-site infrastructure improvements that have been identified through Safe Routes to School action plans. Incorporating funding for Safe Routes to School into the bond measure is one example of how Shane leads in innovative ways to secure resources to expand the program.
The knowledge and activism Shane shows at the local level fuels his desire to form concrete policies that support active transportation throughout the state. He was a founding member of the Oregon Safe Routes to School Network and Leadership Committee that collaborates on statewide Safe Routes to School issues. He recently presented to the Oregon State Legislature alongside the American Heart Association about the importance of Safe Routes to School to build momentum for increased statewide Safe Routes to School funding in the 2017 legislative session.
Shane helped to form Alliance for Healthy Families, which works to promote and create access to healthy eating and active living across Eugene and Springfield. The collaboration of six different organizations focus on reaching underserved populations in Eugene-Springfield that have the highest rates of childhood obesity and free- and reduced-lunch students. More than $60,000 in grants has been secured by the Alliance to do collaborative programming that reduces childhood obesity, including Safe Routes to School pedestrian safety and bike safety education programs, and walk+bike to farm field trips to educate families about active transportation, healthy eating, and cooking, and provide them with free, farm-fresh produce. Shane was integral in hosting several bike rides that provided families with bikes to borrow. One ride focused solely on Spanish-speaking families. Shane employed his fluent Spanish skills to converse with families and connect them with local bike resources and knowledge.
Shane has prioritized equity in his work and has formed creative partnerships to make sure that all students have access to Safe Routes to School programming in Eugene. His passion, dedication and expertise in Safe Routes to School have been instrumental in building partnerships with diverse groups. These partnerships both educate community members about the Eugene-Springfield Regional Safe Routes to School program as well as bring additional resources and expertise to local Safe Routes to School practitioners. His leadership has built Eugene’s Safe Routes to School program into a well-respected and successful model that continues growing each year.
In 2007, Lucy Neher started the Safe Routes to School program in Takoma Park, Maryland, which now empowers five local schools, supports a culture of walking and biking and engages all in a community of health and inclusion. She uses a multi-pronged approach: education that makes safety a fun, cool topic; infrastructural changes that ensure a safe environment; and community-building that engages volunteers and supports the long-term goals of creating a livable, walkable, bikable area.
Lucy teaches almost 1,000 students annually about safe practices as pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders and scooter riders with curriculum she created: Crosswalk Simulation Activity Kit (grades K-2), Bike Rodeos (3-5), and skateboarding safety (6-8). She conducts 35-40 activities per school year in the elementary schools, and expanded the program’s reach through Train the Trainer programs, involving crossing guards, teachers and volunteers in the mission of teaching safety.
She created a signature event to brand the program locally and establish a platform for outreach and safety education, the Takoma Park SRTS 5K Challenge. The pedestrian-safety themed race focuses on education, school safety and community building – all essential elements to the Safe Routes to School program. It raises funds for the schools for pedestrian/bike safety, health and fitness programming. The race, in its eighth year, engages school children, families and elected officials with an expected 1400 participants. Participation for the race is subsidized for many children through the school run clubs, so all children can participate on race day.
Lucy also launched a safety campaign in 2014 with large ads in bus shelters near schools, in public buildings and on social media. The photos depict diverse children demonstrating safe behavior with slogans such as “Safety is Bright: Be Seen” or “Safety is Stylin’: Wear Your Helmet.” The PSAs, in Spanish and English, serve as the default posting in bus shelters and have been displayed regularly for almost 2 years. With eye-catching colors and local photos, the ads convey an effective safety message for multiple audiences including drivers.
Lucy said, “Since 2007, Takoma Park Safe Routes to School has embodied the original idea that the success of the program depends on adherence to the comprehensive approach of the 5 E's. We have built infrastructure with the pedestrian and bicyclist in mind, reinforced it with encouragement and education and followed up with evaluation.
One source of pride is the way this program has partnered with bike and pedestrian advocates on many levels, making it possible to accomplish so much more and create a broader and longer lasting impact.
My vision for the program is that the many Safe Routes to School programs and activities become a part of the fiber of the schools and the community to the extent that they endure for years to come. Real success would be when parents, school administrators and local leaders not only enjoy the benefits of the many ways Safe Routes has improved the lives of our school children, but they demand a safe, walkable environment and engage in the process.”
Michelle Norman is a parent facilitator at Rebecca M. Johnson School (RMJ) in Springfield, Massachusetts who initiated the conversation about starting a Safe Routes to School program at the school, and did all of the research necessary to organize an initial proposal for the school’s walking school bus program.
She outlined the critical need for the program, including specific areas of concern, and arranged for a walk audit with Walk Boston. After the walk audit she shared next needed steps to improve the chances of having the program implemented, creating maps of where RMJ students live, where the problem areas/safety concerns were and proposed routes. She garnered support from community partners such as the University of Massachusetts and Springfield school volunteers as well as from the school department, the Mayor's office and the Springfield Police Department, just to name a few. After the initial launch Mrs. Norman has remained persistent in her publicity of the program so that it continues to gain momentum and reach its goals. They currently have 13 volunteers, eight police officers and four staff members who walk with the 60 plus participating students each day. It is no wonder the program won the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School award in June 2016!
Because of her efforts, student attendance rates are improving, and there have been less tardies since the enactment of the walking school bus. There is also less congestion in front of the school building during dismissal, which helps students and parents feel safer. Students have met more teachers and developed closer relationships with staff members than they otherwise would have without the walking school bus too. Michelle is more than a facilitator, she is a member. She has joined the walk to/from school each morning and afternoon on the longest and largest route for the past year.
It is important to Michelle that the program benefits all children. At RMJ nearly 64 percent of the students are Hispanic, 30 percent are African American and 78 percent of the student population is characterized as economically disadvantaged. More than 90 percent of the students live within the two mile radius that determines whether a student receives transportation or is designated a walker, making this program available to the majority of RMJ's families and student population.
Her vision for Safe Routes to School in her community is “that all stakeholders - teachers, parents, community members, police and students - work in collaboration in an effort to build community relationships and get our students to and from school safely.”
Over the past seven years, Marcia Picard, a School Wellness Coordinator in Fall River, Massachusetts, has helped develop Safe Routes to School programs in 17 schools including elementary, middle, therapeutic middle, and high schools. She has worked with each Safe Routes partner school in Fall River to get them to fully participate in every walk-to-school event, with more than 6,500 walkers. The mayor, as well as numerous school district administrators and school committee members, join the walking events with Marcia as well.
Marcia is a catalyst for many of the health and well-being initiatives in the city, promoting healthy eating and exercise throughout the school system. She effectively brings together community leaders, law enforcement, and city and school officials to make Safe Routes to School part of student wellness in Fall River. When the district hires a new principal or physical education teacher, Marcia is the one who brings them up to speed on Safe Routes to School.
She also adds signs with fitness messages along walking routes in order to increase the literacy of the students who walk those routes, and has aided Fall River schools in hosting pedestrian and bicycle safety classes and walking programs during every physical education class.
Despite the challenges of finding sufficient, on-going supervisory personnel, Marcia was able to help create sustainable walking school buses for four elementary schools. Fall River’s most successful walking school bus is at the Letourneau School which is a one-mile, daily walk with upwards of 45 students. Along with these very successful walking school buses, Marcia is currently working to establish a walking school bus that will go from a low-income housing development, Sunset Hill, to a large elementary school with a low-income, culturally diverse student body.
As a member of the Mayor/Superintendent’s task force on attendance, Marcia has established a primary goal of utilizing walking school buses to increase attendance, and decrease tardiness and truancy. With the help of the Mass in Motion Coordinator, she has arranged for bike and pedestrian safety programs for the school year and summer programs, as well as worked on bike helmet giveaways for families in need.
Marcia shared that “faced with the challenge of high absenteeism rates in our community, the Fall River attendance task force, of which I am a community member, is working to establish more walking school buses beyond the two daily groups that already exist. With 100 percent of our city’s 16 schools participating in the two flagship Walk to School Days for each of the past 4 years, we know we already have strong support from our school district administrators, so a future that includes many more walking school buses could be just around the corner – we think an optimistic, but reachable goal.”
Ellen Pillsbury, Active Transportation Coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Health, has a long history of working with schools and communities to engage stakeholders, build support for, plan, and implement Safe Routes to School initiatives.
In past work, she led the development of more than 20 Safe Routes to School plans across a seven county region of Minnesota. She also supported multiple local Safe Routes to School coordinators with technical assistance, education and support. Her work led to the implementation of safe routes infrastructure construction, programs and events. She has also worked with various programs and funding sources such as the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP)/Health Northland, Minnesota Department of Transportation (MN DOT) and local obesity prevention initiatives. She conducted the first Health Impact Assessment (HIA) in the region, examining transportation decisions surrounding schools in Cloquet, Minnesota.
In Ellen’s most recent role in the Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives she continues to work with SHIP in a broader capacity. She is able to provide technical assistance for SRTS to all 87 Minnesota counties, and works in direct partnership with MN DOT for the direction of statewide bicycle and pedestrian efforts.
In Ellen’s past work with the seven county region of Northeast Minnesota, she worked mostly with rural communities. Northeast Minnesota is 24 percent of the state’s landmass, but only 6 percent of the state’s population. Due to the rural nature of the Northland, Ellen’s experience has incorporated creative solutions to creating safe active transportation alternatives, leveraging funding at times, to design safe routes along major highway systems where shoulders are insufficient or traffic speeds are dangerous. Ellen has also helped communities consider the ability for students to walk, even when their bus ride is more than an hour by helping to implement remote bus drop-off pilots and events.
She worked to secure federal and local funding to implement a unique program: The “Helmet Hero” bike safety program. Each year, ARDC staffers led by Ellen have taught 3rd Graders in the Arrowhead Region basic bicycle safety at six of their schools. As part of the program, each child is provided, at no cost to them, a bike helmet that is properly fitted. Since 2008, a remarkable 7,698 kids have gotten free helmets and have received instruction from Ellen and her team.
Ellen’s vision for Safe Routes to School is that “all communities throughout Minnesota have Safe Routes to School programs place that create a safe and supportive environment for kids to walk and bicycle to and from school and/or around their communities all year to instill a habit of routine active living.”
The City of Kettering, Ohio has had an established Safe Routes to School program since 1978, yet over the years it suffered from city fiscal cuts, school levy defeats, and lack of school administration support. In 2003, Marc Rasor took on the role of Senior Safety Supervisor in the City of Kettering, and quickly went to work analyzing data, evaluating outcomes, and championing Safe Routes to School with school and city leaders. Facilitating school PTOs and teacher champions and gaining further community agency collaborators, he has been able to revive Safe Routes to School efforts in Kettering.
He redesigned and advanced the historical Safe Routes to School classroom lesson into current Ohio curriculum subject standards to regain teacher acceptance of the pedestrian, bike, and traffic safety lessons. City policymakers and school principals are now more supportive, which allows for further grant assistance and walk and bike to school initiatives. Marc also recognizes and values a holistic approach to Safe Routes to School, and applied for and won grants and local agency support for health, wellness, and environmental projects as part of the Safe Routes to School program.
His leadership is not only local, but also regional and statewide as he has championed Safe Routes to School as part of AAA school safety patrol advisor workshops, bicycle safety workshops for various Public Safety officers, adult crossing guard training, and both regional and city-based bicycle task force committees. He has proposed various engineering techniques for the betterment of school zones and crosswalks, and helped get some of the city’s recent road diets, pedestrian count-down signals, and traffic signal control measures implemented through other city funding streams, as opposed to waiting for or requiring a Safe Routes to School grant to gain safety corrections.
One school in particular – John F Kennedy (JFK) Elementary – is a prime example of Marc’s impact on Safe Routes to School in his community as seen in a widely diverse student body. He came to JFK Elementary and helped improve the routes to school, making them much safer, by helping create a safe route to school map, which is given to parents whose students are walking to and from school. Students that ride the bus get off and walk in a designated area with posters and messages made by students under his guidance. He also developed and implemented a buddy system so students in the same neighborhood can walk together, and implemented multi-language based pedestrian and bike safety material handouts for the students.
He helped start JFK Elementary’s International Walk to School Day more than 10 years ago. All grades get handouts that he developed to improve student safety, and teachers stand at key points on the safe route to school map and greet students with stickers and pencils with safety themes. When you have such a diverse population coming together, holding hands and smiling on this special day, they not only learn about Safe Routes to School, but also about how to work together. This is such a special day for families and students to come together as a school community, celebrating their commitment to the safety and wellness of all students.
Marc is both a leader and visionary in his educational efforts and promotion of the health and wellness components of Safe Routes to School, and a true champion of the infrastructure and traffic engineering design needed to help Safe Routes to School succeed in Kettering.
Michelle Sartor is one of the original “Maitland Moms”, a group of three dedicated women who pioneered and built “Walk n’ Roll”, which is what Maitland, Florida calls their local Safe Routes to School program. What they started at their children’s elementary school nearly a decade ago, Michelle has continued to grow, nurture, and build, even as her children moved on to middle school. Michelle and other moms promote Safe Routes to School at the middle school, while continuing to support, train, and sustain the strong elementary school program.
During this time, Michelle, who had worked as an engineer and has a strong technical background, was able to build bridges, gain trust, and learn the language of city traffic engineers, planners, and elected officials. She and her group also collaborated with school, city, county, and state leaders as well as local foundations. Together, they doubled student bike/pedestrian participation and received close to $500,000 in Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) grant awards for infrastructure improvements and student incentive awards.
Michelle’s work came to the attention of Healthy Central Florida, a local healthy community initiative. Her knowledge and experience in the intricacies of building a successful bike/walk to school movement and her, passion for the cause, and reputation as a volunteer who got things done made her an ideal candidate to serve as the walking coordinator to help expand the “Walk n’ Roll” model to 10 additional elementary and middle schools.
She also helped identify best practices and resources nationally. Michelle identified “WalkSafe,” an evidence-based curriculum that teaches children skills to cross the street, and helped bring it to Central Florida. This curriculum has now been approved to be taught throughout the Orange County School District, the tenth largest school district in the country.
One of the schools that Michelle has focused her efforts on is Hungerford Elementary School, which is located in Eatonville, Florida – the oldest African American incorporated town in the United States. Michelle has developed a close and supportive relationship with the school’s P.E. teacher who oversees the Walk n’ Roll program. Hungerford’s students are nearly 90 percent African American and largely low income – almost 100 percent qualify for free and reduced lunches. Many of these students have to walk to school, so making it fun, “cool,” safer, and more rewarding to do so has helped build the program and make it more attractive for the kids and parents alike. Michelle has helped nurture this and other diverse schools toward embracing a walking culture.
Michelle serves as the liaison between school communities and HCF in seeking parent input. She has adamantly advocated for HCF and the schools to push and incentivize parent surveys. She wisely understood how important broad parent input and feedback is so that diverse opinions and parent input can help inspire and inform solutions. This feedback and their comments have provided insight into the challenges, fears, obstacles that many parents face while making the decision to let their child walk or bike to school.
In the Maitland area schools there is racial, economic, and ethnicity diversity. Michelle has created personal connections with many parents, teachers and staff at each from all backgrounds. These relationships are helping create successful events, engage more parents, and recruit, train, and retain volunteers. Ultimately, Michelle’s leadership, passion, knowledge, and support transcends race or class divides and brings everyone together for this common and important goal – Safe Routes to School.
Alex Smith serves as Safe Routes to School Coordinator and Active Transportation Program manager for Columbus Public Health, where he has led efforts to implement Large District School Travel Plans to increase safe walking and biking to school at Columbus City Schools. An alumnus of Columbus City Schools himself, Alex has breathed life and energy into the Columbus Safe Routes to School program and ensured that walking and biking will be championed as public health efforts for years to come.
“With his lifelong support for promoting active transportation and livable, sustainable communities, Alex is a true embodiment of the mission of Safe Routes to School. In both his formal position as a program manager at Columbus Public Health and during his daily life, Alex acts as a champion of active transportation and public health for children and their families across the city,” said Alex’s colleague at Columbus Public Health, Rebecca Cray.
Alex began his efforts to build support for Safe Routes to School in Columbus by coordinating one of the first Large District School Travel Plans in the United States, including 94 K-8 schools and 38,174 students from across the city district. He took the lead on assembling a team of relevant stakeholders (including representatives from Columbus City Schools, the Columbus Division of Police, the Safe Routes Partnership, and the Mayor’s office), and solicited significant public input with surveys sent to parents of over 30,000 students. He also coordinated an accompanying Health Impact Assessment (HIA) to prioritize the travel plan’s implementation, identifying schools with the most urgent need for Safe Routes to School interventions. The HIA used socio-demographic data along with a selection of health indicators to decide upon 15 focus schools out of the 94 Columbus City Schools with Kindergarten – 8th grade students. This data was used to make predictions and recommendations that would help inform the travel plan steering committee on how toe ensure that health and social equity would be taken into consideration within the plan.
As a result of Alex’s efforts, the completed travel plan was endorsed by Columbus City Council, Columbus City Schools Superintendent and Board of Education, the City of Columbus Health Commissioner, and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. The final product now serves as an essential guiding document for current and long-range Safe Routes programming and infrastructure efforts in Columbus.
While working on the travel plan, Alex continues to engage directly with individual schools to build sustainable relationships with principals, social workers, community partners, and involved parents. Alex has perfected the art of identifying champions for programming at each school, and takes every opportunity to engage directly with children by facilitating bicycle rodeos, Walk and Bike to School days, and tactical urbanism events.
“Having supportive administrators at the school level makes all the difference,” said Alex as he described successful walking and biking programs at Columbus schools. As an example, he highlighted the principal at Ohio Elementary School, Olivia Williams, who took the lead on securing bike racks from a school that was closing down and recruiting volunteers to paint and install them right near the school’s entrance.
Alex is committed to serving those schools and children with the highest need. In addition to building a network of transportation, district, and public health partners, Alex connects with community groups in underserved neighborhoods, such as the Lindon neighborhood in NE Columbus, where violence is a deterrent to walking and biking. In Lindon, district and law enforcement staff partner with grassroots community organizations like Porch Parents, a group started by parents who hang flags from their front porches to signal to students passing by on the street that the house is a safe space.
“Our vision for Safe Routes to School in Columbus is to keep working with the schools that are already engaged, to continue to build relationships with new schools, and to create resources and toolkits that support the students, schools, and administrators in our city. We want everyone to be aware of these resources, and know that we’re here to support them,” said Alex.
As the Director of the Michigan Safe Routes to School Program for the last five years, Meg has overseen the implementation of numerous projects, awarding more than 62 schools Michigan federal Safe Route to School grant funds totaling more than 12 million dollars. Her leadership and guidance has helped achieve a culture of active living and pedestrian safety for thousands of students in Michigan.
Meg leads communities through the application process step-by-step, and has trained her staff to engage this way – with communities – rather than making the program application challenging and cumbersome. As an example, Meg led the Holt districtwide project. A new concept that moves from singular school applications to multiple or districtwide applications. This process makes it easier on the applicants who only have to apply for only one grant, which helps save money in the long run, and builds momentum for the program throughout the entire community.
After the reauthorization of the federal transportation bill, many communities were unable to apply for Safe Routes to School funds due to the 20 percent match requirement. Meg worked diligently to come up with a solution to fund the 20 percent match for applicants, through a toll credit program. She coordinated the many moving parts and pieces that it took to make this happen at a state level to benefit local communities and their Safe Routes to School program.
There are many different communities and residents in Michigan, from the very rural areas such as Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula to larger urban areas like Detroit. Many of these communities deal with very different issues of getting students walking to and from school safely. In Munising, a small, rural tourist town in the Upper Peninsula, she worked with the community to establish a sidewalk where it was needed in the innermost part of town, but also advocated to establish a remote drop site for those students that live too far to walk and bike.
Over the last several years, Meg has been in contact with the Detroit Public School system, charter schools, and the Educational Achievement Authority to encourage these entities to apply for a Safe Routes to School grant. During this time, Detroit has dealt with a breadth of challenges that did not allow them to move forward with the grant. When it came to walking to school, their primary focus was on crime and blight elimination. Last year, after meeting with the district and the city, Meg was able to show them evidence that Detroit has one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the nation. Evidence was compelling enough that the district was ready to take the steps necessary to apply for the federal grant. What is even more compelling is that she has been orchestrating a districtwide program to help all 98 elementary and middle schools in Detroit apply for funding, involving many community partners in the process to address issues that the grant program may not fund.
Meg truly understands that getting to school safely is just one of the many issues students face every day, and that if the Michigan program can alleviate that challenge it will help students receive a quality education. A project of this scale is challenging, but when it comes to helping children, Meg is always up for the challenge. A native of Detroit, she is fiercely passionate about creating healthy and equitable opportunities for young people in Michigan, and it is obvious by her leadership that she believes in and finds true joy in the work of Safe Routes to School.
Ohio has one of the most dynamic Safe Routes to School programs in the nation. This is a direct result of Ohio’s Safe Routes to School Program Manager, Julie Walcoff. Julie has been the Safe Routes to School Program Manager in Ohio since the program’s inception in the state.
Julie is tireless in her commitment to make it safer for all K-8 students in Ohio to walk and bicycle to school. From program innovations like creating a standard template for School Travel Plans to being the first in the nation to use student location mapping to ensure that investments made benefit students, she has set and raised the bar for programs around the country. She also has pioneered large-district, district-wide School Travel Plan using all 5E’s. This includes five completed plans in Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo.
Julie achieved these innovations and others by using a collaborative team approach that engages municipalities, school districts, transportation planning professionals and others. By making the connection between active transportation and safety, she has been able to leverage federal safety dollars for infrastructure programs, and by illustrating the intersection of health and active transportation, she has brought the Ohio Department of Health to the table in implementing initiatives that benefit not only students in grades K-8 but whole communities across Ohio.
She is a creative, visionary Safe Routes to School leader and champion. From giving away and fitting thousands of bicycle helmets to Ohio school children to planning and participating in scores of Walk and Bike to School Day events, Julie embodies Deb’s vision as a Safe Routes to School leader. Her top priority is making it safer for kids in grades K-8 to walk and bike to school.
Equity is in the DNA of Ohio’s Safe Routes to School program. From the student location mapping to the large-district, district-wide school travel plans, Julie has made a proactive, concerted effort to include children of all races, socio-economic incomes and ethnic backgrounds into Ohio’s Safe Routes to School program. All five of the large district School Travel Plan (STPs) are in urban school districts with 100% free and reduced lunch student populations. In fact, Cleveland has been ranked as the poorest city in America on several surveys. Not forgetting Ohio’s rural roots, she has made sure that school districts in Appalachia and other rural areas of the state compete on equal footing for funding.
Julie’s first phone call on her first day as Ohio Safe Routes Program Manager was from a rural community in northwest Ohio. The village manager’s sister was killed when they were walking to school as girls. It was this woman’s mission to make it safer for school children in her community to walk and bicycle to school. Today they have completed the STP process and are implementing infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects and programs.
“In Ohio we are fortunate to have so many partners who continually work on SRTS initiatives,” says Julie, “The health community has stepped up to make sure local programs are successful. The advocacy community has been supportive in so many ways from developing the Girls in Gear program, delivering on bicycle education to decision makers throughout Ohio and making sure our elected officials understand the importance of active transportation. Ohio is set up for a culture of active transportation and I can’t wait to see how the work being done throughout the state shakes out.”
Jeanie has been a stalwart advocate for Safe Routes to School and healthy communities for the past four years in California. Though she has moved on from her role as the Senior California Policy Manager for the Safe Routes Partnership, Jeanie still advocates for SRTS in her current role as Policy Director for the California Bicycle Coalition (CBC).
Jeanie was critical in CBC efforts to maintain a minimum $72 million Safe Routes to School set-aside in California for the first cycle of the Active Transportation Program (ATP), which ultimately invested $161.4 million in Safe Routes to School infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects and programs. Even without a current dedicated set-aside within the ATP for SRTS, Jeanie's efforts through the Guidelines process have embedded the need to serve children and invest in Safe Routes to School within the Program's Guidelines that have endured to this day, resulting in $128.8 million invested in SRTS projects and programs in ATP Cycle 2. Additionally, Jeanie compiled easy-to-understand toolkits and resources to help enable cities, counties, schools and school districts to apply and successfully access ATP funding.
Beyond advocating for funding and policies that support SRTS, Jeanie has been a leader in raising the visibility of SRTS, particularly in underserved regions of California. In the fall of 2014, Jeanie organized the Healthy Active Places Tour, a 300+ mile bike ride crisscross California’s Central Valley from Sacramento to Fresno in one week to advance healthy and active communities. The all-women team of eight riders stopped at schools along the way to promote local efforts to create Safe Routes to School, and to advocate for more resources to improve walking and bicycling conditions as well as the health and well-being of families in their communities in the coming years.
Jeanie has also been integral in the Coalition's efforts to maintain the 25 percent minimum funding target in the Active Transportation Program for disadvantaged communities, as well as in efforts to extend this minimum funding target to other traditional transportation dollars. CBC’s collective efforts have focused on ensuring not only that disadvantaged communities are prioritized for healthy and active transportation investments, but also that they are involved in the planning, development and implementation of projects and ultimately directly benefit from them.
Jeanie says, “Since my work is primarily at the state level, I consider the whole State of California to be my community. My vision is that someday very soon we'll have Safe Routes to School in every school and community, for every child in California. Deb started her work here and built an incredible movement in California that continues to grow as part of her legacy. I know her vision was that every community in California, and across the country, would be knit together with safe routes, providing healthy, active spaces for youth and families to get around and thrive. I strive to support the movement in California to keep making progress toward that goal.”
Kim Wiley-Schwartz, the Assistant Commissioner of Education and Outreach of the NYC Department of Transportation, oversees the most comprehensive safety education program in any city in the US. Her most outstanding effort has been to completely overhaul the entire safety and outreach curriculum, creating an awesome array of new, cutting-edge public safety campaigns, programs, educational materials, competitions, and awards that keep schools engaged and have made New York City safer for children and adults alike.
When Kim began her work at NYCDOT Education and Outreach, Safe Routes to School funding went only to the School Safety Engineering unit to support physical improvements around schools in high-crash locations. She worked to secure funding for education programs as well, and succeeded in obtaining grant funding to support several programs that both encourage students to walk and bike more and to teach them how to do it safely.
One of her most creative programs, We're Walking Here, engages schools and communities through cash prizes for their school as they create PSAs to highlight the importance of safer streets. The program has a full curriculum attached to it that the students go through with their teachers before making the PSA. Results from this program have been incredible with dozens of schools competing every year.
Working with partners Recycle-a-Bicycle and Bike New York at 13 middle and high schools, the Bike to School program teaches students about bike safety and gives them hands-on experience in riding and repairing bikes (and the chance to earn one) at shops in their schools. Teacher training is a big part of the program, as they learn repair basics and techniques for leading rides.
Kim’s work really is changing the culture among schoolchildren in New York City. The data speaks for itself. This education program, working in combination with robust engineering and enforcement programs has resulted in the lowest number of traffic fatalities in NYC since 1910. In 2015, 231 people lost their lives in a traffic crash. The years 2014 and 2015 are also the first time all traffic fatalities have declined in two consecutive years in a decade. This effort is significant considering the NYC now has 8.5 million residents and more than 56 million tourists annually.
Kim began her work in traffic safety as an advocate—working for the Open Planning Project (the organization that started Streetsblog and Streetfilms) to build educational materials around environmental and transportation issues. Now as a city official at NYCDOT, Kim is able to take her materials and her vision to the entire city. In addition she has focused her most aggressive programs on the neighborhoods where students get injured by vehicles – the same neighborhoods that have New York City’s highest levels of poverty, crime, asthma, and other chronic diseases. By insisting on partnering with the Department of Education, Kim ensures that the programs reach across the city and through all of its various neighborhoods, ethnicities and income levels. The New York City public school system, which is the chief recipient of her Safe Routes to School work, is incredibly diverse, with Kim’s programs reaching hundreds of school children every year in the public school system and her ads and programs reaching into nearly every neighborhood in New York City.
Melanie Williams is a seemingly tireless Safe Routes to School community champion in Arcata, CA who has been promoting active transportation through education and encouragement for decades. Melanie runs her own business, BikesThere.com, that helps schools, businesses and organizations promote physical activity, health and a sustainable future, and she regularly volunteers at schools and events promoting safety and encouraging walking and cycling. She is also a licensed bicycle instructor through the League of American Bicyclists and a National Safe Routes to School Instructor.
Melanie considers sustainability in all projects she takes on. She could get paid to run every bike rodeo in the County, but it is important to her that schools and districts are able to run their own bicycle rodeos. Therefore she designed and teaches an annual workshop to help educators conduct their own bicycle rodeos. She also had bike rodeo grounds painted on the pavement at every elementary school in Eureka. To that extent, she focuses on institutionalizing SRTS within school districts and within classroom activities whenever possible. She promotes school champions by focusing on ‘train the trainer’ models. When contracted to teach pedestrian safety education to 2nd graders, she designed the course to also instruct the classroom teachers on leading future lessons. She provides the curriculum and teaches the lessons during the first year allowing teachers to observe. During the second year, the teacher leads the lessons with Melanie providing technical support and assistance. She designed the courses this way so that in subsequent years, teachers could lead the lessons while still making herself available to provide technical assistance.
She also partnered with a teacher at a low-income school to create a Bike Club and provide bicycle safety education for students. When that teacher left the school, Melanie engaged with the new teacher to keep the club alive. The kids worked all year on bike riding skills and maintenance. When all the bikes got stolen from the school, Melanie led a fund raising effort to replace the bikes. Enough money was raised to buy a fully enclosed bike trailer to store the bikes securely. Melanie takes kids that participate in the bike club on community rides including the annual Rhododendron Parade in Eureka and Tour of the Unknown Coast family ride in Ferndale. She provides and/or coordinates transportation to these events as well as the cost of registration. These are opportunities that many students would not have had otherwise. Through this work she saw a need to extend education for children to their parents and caregivers and developed workshops specifically for Spanish-speaking families, utilizing an interpreter, to learn how to be safe and ride their bikes together as families. Melanie taught these moms to get on a bike and ride in hopes their enthusiasm would encourage their kids to ride.
Melanie said, “My vision for Safe Routes to School is one in which all things work together to promote justice and equity. For me, our annual Ride for Reading events are the full embodiment of this vision. Each May adult volunteers, including local planners, elected officials, public health employees, retired professors and teachers, and a few high school kids deliver hundreds of pounds of books to local elementary school children by bike. It’s about neighborhoods where qualifying for free or reduced lunch or being car-less are not deterrents to having safe streets or clean air. On the contrary, they are reasons to intensify our efforts to work with residents to create communities where children getting where they want to go on their own, safely and easily, comes naturally.”