A small federal program is punching holes through the unsafe barricade of freeways, busy roads, and rushed drivers that surround the nation’s schools. Yet despite the program’s success, Congress is now threatening to terminate it -- not to save money, but to redirect its funds toward more car-centric infrastructure.
In 2005, Congress initiated a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) national partnership. The SRTS program coordinates infrastructure improvements across the country to make walking and biking to school safer and more practical for students and educators. By most measures, the program has been a resounding success.
Testifying to Congress about a pilot project, director Deb Hubsmith stated, "In only two years, we documented a 64 percent increase in the number of children walking, a 114 percent increase in the number of students biking, a 91 percent increase in the number of students carpooling, and a 39 percent decrease in the number of children arriving by private car carrying only one student."
Children represent over 12 percent of pedestrian fatalities. And bicycle-related injuries send over a quarter million children to hospitals annually. But SRTS currently receives just 0.2 percent of the U.S. Department of Transportation's safety budget -- and even that tiny slice is now in jeopardy.