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Advocates Push for Bike/Ped Funding From CA’s Cap-and-Trade Funds

A coalition of bike and pedestrian advocates are inviting organizations to sign on to a letter [PDF] asking the state legislature to recommend allocating $50 million of the state’s cap-and-trade revenue towards the Active Transportation Program. Currently, none of the $850 million in cap-and-trade funds are allocated specifically for walking and bicycling in this year’s budget.

Bicycles produce zero greenhouse gas emissions but get zero funds from cap-and-trade. Photo by Brian W. Knight from Streetsblog’s “Kids + Cities Photo Contest, 2013″

Caltrans recently released its first ATP call for projects, and applications are due May 21. Eligible projects support walking and bicycling, and must compete for funding that will be awarded according to a formula in the ATP guidelines, recently adopted by the California Transportation Commission. Applications are expected to request and amount exceeding the program’s current funding levels of $120 million per year.

Revenue from cap-and-trade, the system chosen by California to meet the requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act, A.B. 32, must be spent on activities and projects that help meet its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The governor’s proposed expenditure plan for cap-and-trade funds includes $100 million for the Strategic Growth Council for transit oriented development grants, which may include some bike and pedestrian infrastructure as part of larger projects. However, there is no cap-and-trade money specifically allocated to those modes.

The governor’s plan proposes an allocation of $250 million to high-speed rail, $200 million to the Air Resources Board for low-emission vehicle rebates, and $50 million to Caltrans to improve intercity rail, in addition to $250 million for other projects including energy efficiency, clean energy, and natural resource programs that will help reduce GHG emissions.

Building infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians, and educating and encouraging people to use these emission-free modes, can reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions in the short term. In their letter, advocates argue that bike/ped projects are crucial in meeting the state’s emission reduction goals, though they do not specify what budget line should be reduced to create the $50 million cap-and-trade allocation for active transportation.

“There is a lot of demand for the ATP program,” said Jeanie Ward-Waller, California Advocacy Organizer for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, one of the organizations putting together a letter asking the legislature to consider the allocation from cap-and-trade funds. “There are projects that are ready to go, and ready to start reducing emissions in the short term.”

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Adorable Scenes From a Record-Breaking Walk and Roll to School Day

A record-breaking 13,000 students at 76 SF schools reportedly participated in International Walk and Roll to School Day yesterday, including over a hundred little ones who formed a “walking school bus” at E.R. Taylor Elementary, where city officials held a press event.

At E.R. Taylor, which holds walking buses every week as part of the Safe Routes to School program, 52 percent of students live within one mile of school and 38 percent walk, according to the Department of Public Health. Compare that with the citywide stats: 42 percent of SF elementary school students live within a mile of school, but only 26 percent walk.

Sandy Chow, E.R. Taylor parent, said walking with her son Liam allows them to “spend more time together, talking and connecting with each other. That helps prepare my son with the confidence to begin his day.”

"Chief Suhr asking the students which is better, cars going fast? Or, cars going slow... consensus -- cars going slow!" Photo via Walk SF on Facebook

Walk SF's new executive director, Nicole Schneider. Photo: William McLeod

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Draft CA Budget Ups Bike/Ped Funds, Leaves Safe Routes to School in Doubt

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The budget proposed yesterday by Governor Jerry Brown and state lawmakers includes a new “Active Transportation Program” that would increase overall funding for walking and biking improvements but may put California’s Safe Routes to Schools program at risk.

A family makes a car-free commute to school in Berkeley. Photo: EBBC/Flickr

Under the proposed ATP, currently separate funding streams would be consolidated into one larger program, increasing the overall pot of bike/ped funds from $100 million to $134 million. Details on how that money will be doled out have yet to be defined, however, and unless SRTS is guaranteed at least the same amount of funding it currently receives — $46 million — the SRTS Partnership won’t support the ATP, said Jeanie Ward-Waller, the organization’s California advocacy organizer.

“We’re very much in support of the concept” of the ATP, said Ward-Waller. “We just want to see more clear details spelled out, and more security before we can get on board with this program.”

SRTS funds could be protected with State Assembly bill AB 1194, which was passed by the Assembly in late May, and must still be approved by the Senate and Governor Jerry Brown. The Assembly already removed a provision that would have retained the current $46 million minimum in combined state and federal funds set aside for SRTS, but the bill could “protect it from consolidation in the ATP if the ATP does not guarantee funding to SRTS,” said Ward-Waller. She explained in a blog post:

In order for AB-1194 to come off suspense, the Appropriations Committee struck a line from the bill that would ensure $46 million (level funding from state and federal sources) be guaranteed for future years for Safe Routes to School. Instead, level funding for the program will have to be approved through the state budget process each year.  Though the amendment removing the $46M guarantee makes more work for advocates in future years, the bill still effectively simplifies and continues the structure of the program.

Governor Brown and the state legislature must approve a state budget by Saturday, June 15, and it would go into effect on July 1. But AB 1194 isn’t expected to pass the Senate and go to the Governor’s desk until September, and during that time, Ward-Waller said lawmakers decided to put ATP funds on hold while an agreement regarding their use is worked out.

Although advocates will have a challenge in ensuring the SRTS program isn’t shorted, California Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Dave Snyder said the ATP will be an overall positive step toward increase walking and biking funding in the state, as well as creating a more efficient and centralized program to move projects forward.

“We do support the ATP, and we want to see the consolidation of those programs as soon as possible,” he said, while adding a note of caution. “We do need to have a better idea of what the California Transportation Commission wants to do with those funds.”

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Bike to School Day Grows Into Bike to School Week

It’s Bike to School Week. That’s right — the burgeoning event is no longer confined to a single day.

Walter and son rode to Buena Vista Horace Mann school this morning. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

Over 2,500 kids and adults at 52 schools are expected to participate, up from 40 schools last year, according to the SF Bicycle Coalition, which coordinates the event. SFBC Communications Director Kristin Smith said organizers expanded the event to a full week to ”make it easier for more schools to participate.”

“With standardized testing and other school activities, some schools were not able to participate on the single day, so transforming Bike to School Day into Bike to School Week ensured we could get more kids, parents and teachers on bikes,” she said.

An SFBC news release [PDF] highlighted the recent successes at Grattan Elementary in Cole Valley, which has seen major increases in biking and walking, coupled with a reduction in driving, since the Safe Routes to School program began holding regular events like “Carbon Free Fridays” to encourage students and parents to change their transport habits:

Since 2010, when Grattan Elementary school started working with Safe Routes to School, the elementary school has decreased the number of single vehicles dropping off kids from 60% to 47% of all morning and afternoon trips. In just last year, they reduced the car trips by 8.5%. In the last year, Grattan has also seen a 4.5% increase in the number of students walking and biking to school, and 34% of their students participated in Bike to School Day. This decrease in car trips and increase in biking is helping San Francisco meet its official goal of 20% of trips by bike by 2020.

Last year’s Bike to School Day saw an estimated 2,000 participants, and that was on a rainy day, so the jump in kids cycling this year could be huge. Can we get a bike counter at every school to get an accurate measurement?

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Divided By a Highway, East Palo Alto Looks to Reconnect Its West Side

A highway overpass with a narrow sidewalk is the only connection for residents on the west side of East Palo Alto who need to walk or bike to access the east side. Photos: Bryan Goebel

This is the first in a series of stories on East Palo Alto’s proposed bicycle and pedestrian overcrossing.

It takes Maria del Socorro Macias about 40 minutes to walk from her neighborhood on the west side of East Palo Alto to her kids’ schools on the east side of Highway 101. To get there, she has to take a narrow sidewalk on the University Avenue overpass and walk through the city’s most congested intersection.

“It is very dangerous,” del Socorro Macias, 48, told Streetsblog through a Spanish interpreter. “There are numerous traffic lights to cross to get to the schools. It is especially dangerous walking at night, but I often do it because I attend school meetings and parent workshops.”

On foot and by bicycle, it’s a risky journey that countless East Palo Altans have been forced to take for decades, ever since the freeway sliced through their community. To visit friends, to get to church, to the library, or to Mi Pueblo – for now the city’s only grocery store — west side residents, many of whom have low incomes and don’t own cars, must contend with the freeway crossing and unforgiving street traffic.

“There’s a four-foot wide sidewalk that leads to the intersection with the highest traffic in the city,” said Brent Butler, the city’s planning manager. “It’s unsafe.”

A 2010 analysis noted that, among 97 California cities, East Palo Alto has the third-highest ratio of pedestrian collisions to the volume of driving.

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Bike Donation Program to Benefit East Palo Alto Elementary Students

Some East Palo Alto youngsters are escorted by a police officer as part of the FIT zone program, which encourages health and fitness activity in neighborhoods with high levels of crime and violence. Photo: EPAPD

Brent Butler was leading a bicycle rodeo in East Palo Alto for the city’s first Streets Alive event last year when he realized just how many children were there without bikes.

“What I decided to do is continue to teach the rules of the road even if we don’t have bicycles,” said Butler, the city’s planning manager and bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. “We’re going to run the course and I’m going to demonstrate what you need to do with your arms. That was successful. The kids loved it.”

The 2011 event, timed with World Health Day and Cinco De Mayo, drew 1,000 kids from neighborhoods all over East Palo Alto. While there’s no shortage of children eager to ride, there is a lack of access to bicycles. Not a single bike shop exists in East Palo Alto, where 79 percent of families are low income.

“That’s a big obstacle because, you know, when you go to Palo Alto, the bike shops are expensive. For a low-income community, the prices can be prohibitive,” said Butler.

To help break some of the barriers to bicycle ownership in a youthful city where the average age is 28, the city has partnered with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.  The first step is a bicycle donation program called the East Palo Alto Low Income Mobility Initiative that will benefit elementary school children who complete a bicycle education class.

“We really need to get the youth educated,” said Butler. “A lot of the studies indicate that if you bicycle in your youth, it’s often something that will stay with you.”

Low-income families in East Palo Alto face a higher frequency of health and crime problems than any other city in San Mateo County. The Ravenswood Family Health Center estimates more than 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese by the age of 5.

“One of the focuses of our effort is to indicate how important (bicycling) is for your health. Rewarding households that have zero cars is one of my dream projects,” said Butler, who gets around the city by bicycle. “I’m trying to encourage others to do what I do.”

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SF’s Biggest Bike to School Day Yet Marks a Growing Trend Among Students

Kids at 40 schools this morning participated in San Francisco’s biggest Bike to School Day yet. The level of participation, in the event’s fourth year, reflects steady growth in levels of biking and walking to schools throughout the year.

Students check in for Bike to School Day at Buena Vista Horace Mann School this morning. Photo: Kate McCarthy, SFBC/Flickr

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) Executive Director Leah Shahum said an enthusiastic group of more than 50 kids rolled in on two “bike trains” at this morning’s ride to Sunnyside Elementary School, despite pouring rain.

The citywide attendance numbers aren’t in yet, but organizers anticipated about 2,000 participants this year – a sharp rise since the city’s first event in 2009, which saw about 600. Participation has steadily grown since. Last year, 1,600 students turned out for Bike to School Day, including 120 at Grattan Elementary in Cole Valley — one-third of the school’s students, Shahum pointed out.

Biking to school throughout the rest of the year is also becoming more popular among students and parents with the help of San Francisco’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, which began promoting walking and biking at 15 schools in October 2009.

In May, Sunnyside Elementary will finish up its popular Walk and Roll Wednesdays, which offers kids prizes for walking, biking, or taking transit to school. Near Glen Park, Fairmount Elementary also holds multiple bike trains every Tuesday. SRTS staff also teach biking skills at the participating schools and provide family education along with the SFBC, which just released a revamped version of its Family Biking Guide.

Bike to School Day also seems to be attracting more city officials each year. SF School Board President Norman Yee rode in to Sunnyside Elementary this morning, and five city supervisors biked to schools in their respective districts: Carmen Chu, Eric Mar, John Avalos, Christina Olague, and Jane Kim.

Parents say the event increasingly serves as an “entry into riding” for many students, said Shahum, who noted that 42 percent of elementary school students live within one mile of their school, according to data from the SF Unified School District (SFUSD). The district is also making it a higher priority to place students at schools within their neighborhoods, and the SFMTA is currently implementing 15 MPH zones at over 200 schools around the city.

“What we’re seeing more and more, especially among [SRTS schools] is more parents, teachers, and school leaders engage well beyond Bike to School Day,” she said.

Nik Kaestner, director of sustainability for SFUSD, said the bike racks “were overflowing” at Sunnyside this morning. To meet bike parking demand, SFUSD is close to installing up to four bike racks (which hold eight bikes each) at all 104 of the schools in the district, he said.

“We’ve put in the infrastructure that makes it easier for parents to leave the bike there during the day instead of having to schlep it back,” said Kaestner. SFUSD will also evaluate the usage of the racks at each school to determine which schools need more capacity. High schools, he noted, are particularly likely candidates.

“It definitely seems like biking is something that is in and hip right now in San Francisco, and our parents want their kids to be part of that culture,” he said. “We’re seeing that when we go to the schools that participate.”

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New 15 MPH School Zones Welcome Students on Walk to School Day

Mayor Ed Lee walks to school with students from Marshall Elementary in the Inner Mission. Photo: Marianne Szeto

Yesterday marked the first Walk to School Day since San Francisco began installing 15 mph speed limit signs near dozens of schools, and thousands of students were a little safer from speeding cars as they made their way to class.

“The new safer speed zones will calm traffic in neighborhoods throughout the city and help more people enjoy walking,” said Walk SF director Elizabeth Stampe, who joined students from Marshall Elementary in the Inner Mission on a “walking bus” along with Mayor Ed Lee, D6 Supervisor Jane Kim, Recreation and Parks General Manager Phil Ginsburg, and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin.

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Mayor, SFMTA, Walk SF Announce First 15 MPH School Zone

"Walk SF has been working on this campaign to get 15 mile an hour safer speed zones around schools for a long time, and we're so excited that it's coming to fruition," said Elizabeth Stampe of Walk SF (at microphone). In background: Mayor Ed Lee, SFMTA Director Cheryl Brinkman, Police Chief Greg Suhr and far right, SFMTA Chief Ed Reiskin. Photo: Bryan Goebel

San Francisco became the first large California city to implement a 15 mph speed zone around a school this morning, as SFMTA workers installed one of four signs that will go up around George Peabody Elementary School on 7th Avenue in the Richmond District. It’s part of a groundbreaking citywide initiative pushed by walking advocates to implement safe speed zones around 200 schools, and comes right as the school year is beginning this week.

“It’s really a very simple issue. Kids need to be able to get to school, to leave school and to have any other interface between the school and the street happen safely,” said SFMTA Chief Ed Reiskin, who started his job as the head of the agency on Monday. He was joined by Mayor Ed Lee, SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, Supervisor Eric Mar, walking and biking advocates, SFMTA officials, San Francisco Unified School District officials and others.

“It’s verified that the streets and areas around our schools are dangerous, that they need to be slowed down,” said Lee. “It’s been shown in study after study, and the last one that we looked at was in London, and it showed that when you slow down, even a fraction of the speed, you can get a high increase in safety and a reduction in the amount of fatalities that result from a car collision.”

Lee said the signs, funded by $361,700 in Prop K sales tax funds from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, should be in place at all schools in San Francisco by early 2012.

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One More Push Can Preserve Federal Safe Routes to School Funding

Photo: TreeHugger

This week, the Safe Routes to School National Conference convenes in Minneapolis, a progressive city determined to become the most bicycle friendly in the nation. But even here, far from the nation’s capital, in a region celebrated for its massive greenway system, drama inside the Beltway has instilled an air of urgency to the event.

In 2005, SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act) created the federal Safe Routes to School program to get more kids to bike and walk to school by improving infrastructure and creating encouragement programs that make those active trips safe and appealing. The funding for the program is but a tiny drop in the mammoth transportation budget — a mere 0.25 percent of federal transportation spending. But those dollars have been a crucial foundation in building a wide and growing movement.

Deb Hubsmith, director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. Photo: Carolyn Szczepanski

As is the case for so many progressive programs, though, there’s a very real threat that the well of dedicated dollars for Safe Routes to School could dry up in the next transportation bill. That was apparent from the opening moments of the biennial gathering.

Deb Hubsmith, the director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and a key player in developing and advancing “Safe Routes” nationwide, appealed to a huge crowd of more than 600 participants for three things: courage, faith and immediate action.

“As you know, we have some challenges,” she said. “Some people might be discouraged by what they’ve heard about Congress and the federal debt. The transportation bill is up for reauthorization and there’s fighting about what will happen with the future. Some say Safe Routes to School is not a federal priority.”

“In the face of this discussion right now, we need to have courage,” she added. “We need to know that some of the best outcomes come from challenges in front of us. When something is at risk it creates an opportunity; do we want to go backwards or have a future with healthy kids and healthy communities.”

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