In 2005, George W. Bush signed into law the “Safe Routes to School” (SR2S) program and the Congress granted it $612 million over a period of five years to implement its objectives and was recently renewed to receive 2009’s funding of $183 million dollar for 2010.  The objectives of SR2S are to improve safety and encourage more children, including children with disabilities, to safely walk and bicycle to school.  


In mid-June  Eric Cantor’s (R- Virginia, House Minority Whip) Youcut project (a project designed to defeat the permissive culture of runaway spending in Congress by having people vote on which of  five federal programs to cut spending on) chose the SR2S program as one of the five.  Once the people decide which one to cut, the minority party tries to bring it to the floor of the house for a vote


It did not ‘win’, but it brought out a spirited defense of the SR2S project by a host of varied groups across the web.  I couldn’t find any site that openly advocated abolishing this federal program.  After all, it’s for the safety of our kids on their way to and from school, and to see that they don’t get more obese from inactivity…


The Youcut blurb said the federal SR2S program is duplicative of what has been traditionally local responsibilities, and has a bit of added administrative and bureaucratic costs.  Sounds logical; filtering money from the feds to the states and then to local governments would put less cents on the dollar to the problems.


I checked out some of the projects the SR2S have in Michigan coming up and this is some of what I found  (,1607,7-192--184423--,00.html): 

Bay County
Christa McAuliffe Middle School will collaborate with the Bangor Charter Township School District and the Bay County Road Commission. The funding will be used to install new sidewalks on Kiesel and Two Mile roads to connect local subdivisions with existing sidewalks, pedestrian signals on Euclid Avenue, LED pedestrian signs on school property, and a bike rack at the school, and to provide educational materials to encourage biking and walking. The project budget is $389,312.

Eaton County
Winans Elementary School, one of Michigan's pilot schools, will collaborate with the Waverly School District and the Eaton County Road Commission to construct sidewalks on Snow Road and Chanticleer Trail that will improve connections between the school property and existing sidewalks. The funding also will create a refuge island in the crosswalk at Snow Road, add bike racks and fencing, and provide educational and encouragement items such as pedometers, pamphlets, and safety equipment for crossing guards. The project budget is $456,394.


Installing some sidewalks, pedestrian signals, bike racks, providing fencing, pamphlets, pedometers and safety equipment.  All for under $850,000.  Could be a bargain, I guess.


Elementary and Middle Schools also have the option to apply for mini-grants.  The local Ludington Planning Commission recently applied and got these $1000 grants for Foster, Lakeview and P.M.  According to Commissioner (and Dog Park Committee spokesman) Joe Moloney on 3-2-2010:  “Most of the issues that will be looked at will not involve any money spent. Children will be taught to walk on certain sidewalks and certain streets during the winter and avoiding congested areas.”  At $3000, all this could be a bargain too, I guess.


 I truly have a dilemma.  On the one hand, I agree with the goals and objectives of SR2S and believe more money should be spent to accommodate kids to walk or bicycle safely to school and back.  On the other hand, I feel the federal SR2S program is very inefficient, and may actually draw away local money from being put towards their cause, as communities try to show why they need these grants. 


 How about you—SR2S:  of great use or a great waste?  

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What a silly program. Why not keep the money here locally instead of sending it to Washington to let them take their cut then send it back to us? A huge waste of money. I wonder how kids ever made it to school in the past without this program?
Great waste and silliness, like Chevy Chase would say, foreeeeee! Duck Judge and Clerical ppl. And to think, I just hate golf too, such another waste of precious time. Fishing is the answer, for sure!
Frankly, many, if not most, parents in my neck of the woods drive their kids to school for fear of strangers lurking around waiting for an easy target. Attempted kid-napping happens more frequently than ever now and is not limited to urban school districts. I don't believe the money would be well spent until parents are convinced that it's safe from the stranger-danger perspective to let their kids walk or bike to school. This is very unfortunate, as lack of exercise contributes to the growing problem of childhood obesity and the complications that come with it.
This is a big fear for many parents, and I think with some local initiatives such fears could be minimalized by walking/riding in groups or with vetted parental volunteers. If there is physically no safe way to walk or ride to school due to street conditions, however, these are unlikely to develop until the infrastructure catches up.
Here's a simple concept: keep the Federals out of the schools! They don't need to be in our schools, public or private. You get ridiculous programmes regarding school meals, 'no child left behind', and this farce.

Over $800,000 to install a couple of sidewalks and pedestrian signals? Maybe I need to learn how to pour concrete.
$3000 to teach the kids what sidewalks and streets to walk on, and to avoid congested areas? That leaves nearly $3000 to invest in dog-fencing.
$3000 to teach the kids what sidewalks and streets to walk on, and to avoid congested areas?

Last time I looked, that was a parental responsibility, or are the feds now trying to usurp one's rights as a parent?
Excellent responses everyone; it does solidify my general position on this issue. Bicycle groups across the country were up in arms about this, but I don't really understand why. The things it does is totally duplicative of what our state and local governments should be doing.

I do see a good use for this money, however. Interstates, limited-access freeways/tollways, and other vehicle-friendly-only streets have sprung up throughout the country over the last half century with very little regard for the walking and riding routes destroyed by their creation. Adapt the worst of these to be passable by non-vehicles, and legislate future streets to conform to usable standards for all traffic affected.


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