Washington State has long recognized the need to get more kids walking and biking to school. But the challenge was getting sustainable dollars dedicated to the infrastructure that would make it easier and safer for students to do that.
That challenge spurred advocates in Washington to organize a movement known as the Safe Routes Healthy Kids Campaign. It was designed to urge policymakers to support and approve funding for better community infrastructure, such as safer crosswalks, sidewalks and bike routes.
Led by the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition (COPC), American Heart Association and Washington Bikes, the advocates helped get thousands of state residents engaged in educating legislators and the governor about the importance of safer routes to school and the long term benefits of Safe Routes infrastructure to the health of the state.
“When children can safely walk or bike a mile to school, they can meet two-thirds of the daily recommended amount of exercise. Increased physical activity helps children achieve a healthy weight and cardiovascular fitness, as well as improved academic performance,” wrote Jennifer Trott of the COPC in a blog to coalition members and supporters.
To help support the effort, the COPC commissioned a poll that showed strong support among Washington State voters for Safe Routes funding. The statewide poll found that 84% of voters believe that funding to keep children safe from traffic and physically active should be an integral part of transportation spending in the state.
In spite of legislative and political wrangling that occurred over broader transportation funding issues, the coalition was ultimately able to secure $75 million for a Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Grant Program, $89 million for a Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Project List and $56 million for Safe Routes to School, for a total of $186.05 million.