On March 13, 2008, the Minnesota Department of Transportation received more than $2 million in grants to improve safety conditions and the quality of bicycling and walking to school for Minnesotaâ€™s communities statewide. The â€œSafe Routes to Schoolâ€ is a federal program created in 2005 by a federal transportation-funding bill.
This means that school districts and local communities can build both infrastructures and non-infrastructures to help students safely walking or biking to school. Robert J. McFarlin, acting transportation commissioner, said, â€œThe benefits of the Safe Routes to School program are potentially far-reaching, not only by reducing traffic and improving safety near schools, but by encouraging an active lifestyle for kids.â€
There are twenty-seven projects with nine projects to provide crosswalk improvements and trail or sidewalk connections. Eleven projects focus on promoting walking and biking to school through community planning, walk-to-school days, bike rodeos and educational materials. Nineteen of the grant recipients are in greater Minnesota and eight are in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
Statistics show that fewer than 15 percent of kids in kindergarten through eighth grade walk or bike to school. Nearly half of school-aged children are regularly driven to school by their parents. This project helps the kids of our communities to enjoy the benefits of exercise before and after school as well as feeling safe during their commutes.