Minnesota communities and schools wanting to develop safer routes for students to walk and bicycle to school can apply for planning assistance grants through the Minnesota Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to School program. Application deadline is Jan. 5, 2018.
"Planning assistance grants are the first step for communities to assess their current conditions for walking and bicycling to school and decide what they need to effectively implement a Safe Routes to School program," said Dave Cowan, SRTS coordinator.
He said after a plan is developed, schools and communities use this assessment to apply for funds to advance infrastructure such as sidewalks, crosswalks and signage and non-infrastructure solutions such as educational programming, events and enforcement.
The planning process works to engage stakeholders, analyze existing data and set a prioritized list of strategies to make it safer and easier for youth to walk and bicycle to school.
Plans are completed by regional development organizations or a statewide SRTS consultant.
Cowan said nationally, walking and bicycling to school is on the decline, decreasing from 48 percent of students in 1969 to 17 percent in 2014.
"Safe Routes to School planning can help communities design strategies to get students to walk and bicycle to school again," he said. "This helps students build physical activity into their day, arriving at school refreshed and ready to learn."
Since 2006, MnDOT has worked with communities around the state to fund nearly 300 schools' plans to develop and advance safe routes to school.
For more information, go to www.dot.state.mn.us/saferoutes/planning-grants.html.