Voices for Healthy Kids
April 6, 2017
Idaho is taking steps to make the streets safer for all children. Last week, Rep. Janet Trujillo (R), Idaho Falls, introduced House Bill 334, during the second to last day of the legislative session as a companion piece to the major transportation bill the Legislature wanted to pass before adjournment (S 1206). Although previous legislation died in the House Transportation Committee, this last-minute effort by Trujillo and Rep. Mat Erpelding successfully created a funding pathway for Safe Routes to School (SRTS) projects using surplus dollars dedicated to transportation projects.
More than 800 Idaho children were involved in crashes from walking or biking between 2011-2015. Ten were killed. A 2016 Governors Highway Safety Association report shows an 11% nationwide increase in people killed by drivers while walking, in the last year. Idaho, however, increased 250% from 2015-2016.
Inspired by personal tragedy, Trujillo introduced the bill by recounting the story of her grandson being hit by a truck while he bicycled to school. This story, far too common for many families, reinforced the importance of Safe Routes to School and inspired the body to vote overwhelmingly in favor of it. Remarkably, within 24 hours, H334 passed through both the House and the Senate, with collective votes totaling 92-11.
So what’s next? That’s where the Idaho Walk Bike Alliance (IWBA) and American Heart Association (AHA) come in. As a statewide 501(c)3 nonprofit, the Idaho Walk Bike Alliance promotes walking and biking as healthy, safe, and reliable transportation options for all Idahoans. The organization is celebrating House Bill 334 as a positive step forward, while also recognizing the need to keep advocates, decision makers, and coalition members aware that a stronger, comprehensive SRTS program needs to be established and fully funded within the state.
New opportunities are available, and the IWBA and AHA will be working with partners across the state to engage them in SRTS efforts. Many of Idaho’s small, rural communities need assistance to improve bike and walk-ability, and helping them take advantage of any available funding to implement local programs and projects to improve safety, health, economic development, academic performance, and the many other benefits of safe routes will be where IWBA and AHA will focus their efforts over the next year. In the 2018 legislative session, they hope to demonstrate successful SRTS projects to lawmakers to secure dedicated funding and statewide program support into the future.
HB 334 is currently awaiting the governor’s signature.