City of Los Angeles

Creating a Comprehensive Safe Routes to School Strategy

Since Spring 2010,  a strong team effort has been moving forward to address making it safer and more enjoyable for students and their families to walk and bike to school in the City of Los Angeles.

Safe Routes to School National Partnership in collaboration with many individuals and organizations, notably Paul Backstorm, from Los Angeles Councilmember Bill Rosendahl’s office, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation, have been working together to develop a comprehensive Safe Routes to School plan for the City’s 700plus schools.  All are welcome and invited to join these efforts – a wide representation of stakeholders and leaders is critical to the success of this idea.

One of the first steps was to raise this issue with the City’s Transportation Committee who was receptive to the concept.  The City had not been competing well for Safe Routes to School funds, and frequently it was found that proposals lacked the overall strategy and vision for making a significant impact – as well as making it a strong competitor among other California cities.   One out of five Safe Routes to School applications to Caltrans are funded,  there is a strong demand and with that, competition for these funds.

Another critical step was having it included in the City’s recently adopted Bicycle Master Plan.  As a result of these collaborative efforts and conversations, in April 2011 the City of Los Angeles allocated $1.2M in local sales tax dollars to fund such a plan (Measure R Local Return).   This would have been very challenging to accomplish if it weren’t for these source of dollars, which came from the work of the previous two years of dedicated efforts by local advocacy groups and individuals (LACBC, Streetsblog, Green LA Transportation Working Group, Stephen Box, Deborah Murphy) that were successful having the City of Los Angeles commit 10% of local Measure R returns to funding bicycle and pedestrian projects.  That critical advocacy move created a source of funds for this work.

A Strategic Safe Routes to School city-wide plan will allow the City to prioritize and methodically address making it safer for students to walk and/or bike to school, as well as ensure Safe Routes to School funds succeed in Los Angeles, leverage additional resources, and achieve regional and state transportation and health goals.  Much of this concept is modeled after the work done in New York City in 2003 when they developed their Citywide Safe Routes to School Plan.  One of the primary factors in identifying areas of high need will be collision data as recently mapped by the State of California in the new tool, Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS).

In previous cycles there was no clear process for developing innovative and strategic applications and to see the City of LA truly work to support students walking and bicycling to school, this process is seeking to remedy that and ensure the areas of highest need, which in many instances are the low income areas of the City, are becoming safer for students and their families to walk and bicycle to school.

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