Partner Spotlight: Safe Routes to School National Partnership

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership believes in the importance and joy of safe walking and biking. Their work provides communities with the information necessary to make safe, walkable and bikeable communities a reality.

“Having communities built around safe walking and biking reduces road congestion, air pollution, and many other public health and climate change related issues,” National Partnership Technical Assistance Manager, Michelle Lieberman said. “There also is an enormous benefit to kids’ health when physical activity is built into their day.”

The National Partnership team utilizes research-based evidence to highlight what works and why, and translates research into education, professional development tools and training to provide communities the technical support they need to make community-enhancing decisions.

Recently, the National Partnership team worked with the Institute for People Place and Possibility (IP3) and Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems (CARES) to inform the development of the SRTS Prioritization Index (SRTSPI). The SRTSPI ranks the nation’s public schools within cities, counties, and school districts to support communities in their Safe Routes implementation strategies. The SRTSPI uses a set of national, publicly available indicators that consider the impact of improvements on safety and equity for students while also increasing the reach of SRTS strategies. A list of the selected indicators and their data sources is below.

With a goal of identifying which schools could use the most investment towards safe routes to school, either financial investment or focused attention through programming and policy, the index is a way of helping schools think more methodically.

“Oftentimes you see a ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease’ kind of prioritization,” Sara Zimmerman, National Partnership program and policy director said. “The prioritization index makes sure that we’re looking at the needs of a particular community as well as the potential impact on the number of students who are able to benefit. The data provides an objective way to look at things.”

The tool allows for the prioritization to be calculated at the county, city and school district levels.

The SRTSPI can also be overlayed with additional community indicators within Community Commons. For example, the Vulnerable Populations Footprint (VPF) below outlined in red. The VPF assists users in finding areas in your community that are experiencing higher poverty and lower educational attainment. These tools can assist communities and investors in refining and supporting prioritization of areas in greatest need.

To learn more about the SRTSPI and the work of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, find the National Partnership at the 2017 Walking Summit in St. Paul and connect with walking advocates to share diverse perspectives, strategies, and best practices for working together to elevate the power of walking and Safe Routes to School in creating healthy, safe, and active communities. Learn more here.

The development of the Safe Routes to School Prioritization Index was made possible through support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation COGIS Project.

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