Guest Blogger: Erin Bennett, Idaho Government Relations Director
Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) means safer, healthier Idaho kids. SRTS is a project that provides funding to improve infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects that encourage walking and biking to school. Over the past several months, we have been working closely with partners to help educate policy makers on the need for funding SRTS.
Since the 1960s, the percentage of kids who walk or bike to school has decreased from 47% to approximately 12%, while those riding in personal vehicles has increased from 12% to 45%. Research shows that each hour per day spent in a car increases likelihood of obesity by 6%. We know that increased physical activity throughout the day helps reduce obesity and the associated health risks, and walking and biking to school is an easy way to boost the amount of active time in a child’s day.
Safety concerns for kids walking and biking on highly trafficked streets, as well as things like lack of sidewalks, walk or bike paths, and crosswalks are often cited for this dramatic change in how kids get to and from school. This is where SRTS funding is essential. SRTS provides dollars to school districts to support infrastructure changes, as well as non-infrastructure improvements, such as a program manager, or volunteer training for walking school buses.
Along with improved safety and health outcomes, we know that increased activity has a positive effect on academic performance. After physical activity, students show improved test scores, demonstrate better classroom behavior and reduced discipline issues, experience less absenteeism, and indicate a higher level of comprehension.
We will be focusing on SRTS in our youth advocacy efforts during the 2016 Legislative Session, because of the health, safety, and academic improvements that can be seen when Safe Routes are implemented effectively. We hope you’ll join us by reaching out to your local district, administrators, parents, and legislators, and encouraging everyone to support Safe Routes to Schoo