Since 1960, the rate of youth bicycling and walking to school has decreased from 48% to 17%. This is a trend that Safe Routes to School programming and funding opportunities hopes to reverse – and quickly.
A $108,000 grant, a part of Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program, will allow more than 13,000 Minnesota youth to take advantage of MnDOT’s Safe Routes to School Bike Fleet. These grants support pedestrian and bicycle safety education in Minnesota schools by awarding communities a trailer, bicycles, and supplies that enable teachers, after school programs, and other community groups to share the bicycles while teaching critical safety skills to youth in Minnesota.
More bicycles in Minnesota
The New York Mills and ISD 197 school districts and Feeling Good Minnesota will be benefiting from the grant. The ISD 197 district includes West St. Paul, Eagan and Mendota Heights. Feeling Good Minnesota is a community collaborative of CentraCare Health. It is estimated the three fleets will be used in 32 different groups including schools, scout groups, 4-H clubs, parks and recreation and after school programs.
Dave Cowan, Safe Routes to School coordinator spoke to the benefits of having these fleets, “The bicycle fleet grants and pedestrian and bicycle safety education are key components that ensure youth in Minnesota are given the lifelong skills to walk and bicycle safely.”
Program manager at Feeling Good Minnesota Kathy Geislinger, echoed those sentiments,“The bike fleet will provide equitable access to a well-maintained fleet of bicycles and teach thousands of Central Minnesota youth every year how to safely walk and bike to school,” “Safe Routes to School promotes physical activity and can increase walking and biking to and from school, ultimately leading to improved health for children and adolescents.”
Bicycle and pedestrian safety education includes teaching Minnesota’s Walk! Bike! Fun! curriculum for children ages 5 to 13 in schools, after school programs, and within community organizations.
Since 2005, MnDOT has awarded approximately $30 million yearly in federal and state funds to communities to support Safe Routes to School. The majority of funding is for infrastructure projects.
In 2013, Gov. Dayton and the Legislature authorized $500,000 in general funds for Safe Routes to School non-infrastructure activities for the biennium. In 2014, this was increased to $1 million for non-infrastructure activities. An additional $1 million from the general fund was invested for infrastructure projects.
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