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A Safe Path Back to School: Safe Routes to School 101

Kids are more sedentary today than they were a generation ago. This is contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic, but in many cases it is due to the environment that surrounds them. Building Safe Routes to School (SRTS) brings street-scale improvements to neighborhoods so that children have greater opportunities to be active—and parents can rest easy that their child is out of harm’s way when heading to school. These routes also provide a fun and convenient way for families, neighbors and friends to connect while being active.


TAKE ACTION – Encourage your lawmakers to give our kids the green light on health by supporting funding for the Safe Routes to School programs

The federal SRTS program, established in 2005, provides funding for communities to implement these types of projects. However, recent changes have cut federal funding to the program, meaning states must now play a bigger role in supporting Safe Routes to School initiatives.

Let your lawmaker know that increasing state-level funding is key to supporting these kinds of improvements. It will enable communities to implement healthy changes to their environments and eliminate common barriers to physical activity for children.

For more information on how you can help our kids get active and help reverse dangerous obesity rates visit:



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Volunteers Testify Around MN at Transportation Hearings

The Minnesota Safe Routes to School Coalition has been busy testifying around the state for active transportation funding!

Jodi Gertken gave a great testimony at the Sen. Transportation & Public Safety Cmte hearing in St. Cloud, Minnesota about why CentraCare Health System supports the Move MN transportation funding proposal and why resources to support safe walking and biking options should be part of the transportation funding solution.

Center for Prevention director Janelle Waldock testified at a Senate Transportation hearing in Woodbury  on the importance of including bike and pedestrian options as part of a comprehensive state plan for all Minnesota’s transportation needs.

Bike/ped advocates Jodi Gertken (Left) and Dr. Dave Sanderson (Right) from Greater MN testified alongside bill author Sen. Pederson (Center) today at the Sen. Transportation & Public Safety Cmte hearing on SF1376 which would establish a statewide active transportation program to support bicycle, pedestrian and other nonmotorized transportation activities in MN.


Thanks to Rep. Nornes for meeting with SRTS and bike/ped advocates in Fergus Falls to hear why walking and bicycling is a critical component to the transportation funding discussion at the Capitol.

Pictured: Rachel Callanan, Patrick Hollister, Wayne Hurley, Rep. Nornes, Dorian Grilley and Dave Sanderson.







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An Update from the Capitol: Different approaches to transportation funding in 2015

The Republican House Majority bill (HF 4 – Rep. Kelly, Red Wing) calls for $750 million over the next four years, through redirecting existing dollars, tapping the state’s budget surplus to the tune of $200 million, and through greater "efficiencies" at MnDOT. Their bill is exclusively dedicated to funding roads and bridges with zero money for transit or pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. House GOP leadership have stated that this bill is a starting point.

Taking a decidedly more long-term and comprehensive approach, the DFL Senate Majority’s bill (SF 87 – Sen. Dibble, Minneapolis) calls for a $800 million to $1.1 billion annual investment in a multi-modal transportation system that includes dedicated money for roads, bridges, transit, and pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. The money would be generated from a combination of new revenue (wholesale gas tax, ¾ of cent Metro sales tax increase, etc.) and redirecting federal dollars. The DFL Senate bill would provide approximately $50 million per year for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in Minnesota, $16 million of which is dedicated for Greater Minnesota. Safe routes to school projects are specifically named as an eligible use for these new funds.

Governor Dayton’s transportation budget (HF 847) proposes roughly $11 billion over the next 10 years in multi-modal investments using similar funding sources as the DFL Senate bill (wholesale gas tax, ½ cent Metro sales tax increase, etc.). However, Dayton’s proposed investment in walking and biking is just $8 million per year over the next ten years, far below the $50 million per year walking and biking advocates have called for to meet the needs across Minnesota. Of the $7.5 million per year to support walking and bicycling, Dayton would make roughly $3 million per year available to the Safe Routes to School program. However, those dollars would come from the General Fund, which is a less secure funding source than dedicated transportation dollars.

How can you help support walking and biking?

Active and healthy living advocates have a unique role to play by bringing a new voice to transportation funding discussions. Get involved and stay informed: Make sure you "like" the MN Safe Routes to School Coalition and Move MN Facebook pages.

Two new resources can help us communicate the need for pedestrian and bicycle funding to the public and lawmakers. Use them in conversations with friends, colleagues and legislators to elevate the importance of investing in a transportation system in Minnesota that supports walking and bicycling.

1. The statewide active transportation poll shows a significant majority (65%) of Minnesotans favor including additional funding for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in any transportation funding proposal state lawmakers consider.

2. The interactive online map shows funded and unfunded pedestrian and bicycle projects in Minnesota, including Safe Routes to School projects. Check out what is happening in your community.

The Bottom Line: Policymakers need to hear from YOU!

If Minnesota is to achieve significant, dedicated funding for improving the safety and convenience of walking and bicycling for all users, regardless of age or zip code, YOU need to take action and speak out! Watch for Action Alerts this legislative session to ensure walking and biking are a central part of the transportation discussion. And make sure to join us at the Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition Day at the Capitol on March 25, 2015 so you can advocate for walking and biking infrastructure. Register here now!

Thanks for your ongoing support!

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MnDOT Starts Applicant Search for SRTS Grants

MnDOT talks about how they are seeking applicants for the Safe Routes to School grant, check it out!

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota schools and their partners are invited to apply for $1.25 million in Safe Routes to School grant funds for projects that will help more children safely walk and bicycle to school. Applications are due Jan. 9, 2015, and are available at, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Schools in Minnesota may apply for state grants in three categories:

SRTS Infrastructure Solicitation  – K-12 schools, in partnership with cities or counties, will receive grants to support infrastructure identified in Safe Routes to School planning efforts that improve safety or access for children walking and bicycling to school. MnDOT has $1 million in state funds for projects constructed in 2015 or 2016. Continue reading here

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Students Take Part In Walk To School Day

Check out the article posted today on! Children all over Minnesota are taking part in Walk To School Day. (Photo: Elizabeth/Flickr)

ST. Paul, Minn. - Today is Walk to School Day, and the annual event comes as some school districts in Minnesota see a resurgence in students who are getting to class on their own. In the Sauk Rapids-Rice district, Superintendent Daniel Bittman says with the recent addition of sidewalks and crosswalks around Pleasantview Elementary, students, parents and staff are becoming more active.

"It's becoming part of a healthy-lifestyle choice," Bittman says. "It's not just about to and from schools. Families are taking that opportunity to be more active. And we know when kids are more active and engaged in healthier lifestyles, they do better in school."

Bittman says the improvements around Pleasantview were funded through Minnesota's Safe Routes to School program. The effort has helped a number of districts make improvements so kids can bike and walk safely to class, but demand in the state far exceeds available resources. Continue reading here.

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Minnesota: Building Coalitions to Improve Public Health

Want a behind the scenes glance at some of the reasons for our success in Minnesota around Safe Routes to School? Then check out this great article on the success of our coalition work around obesity prevention.

Minnesota: Building Coalitions to Improve Public Health

One way to encourage children and youth to be more physically active, and thereby helping to reduce obesity rates, is to make sure they can exercise safely, particularly in low-income minority communities. This is the central premise of the

Safe Routes to School(SRTS) movement. Funded by the federal transportation bill, SRTS helps communities make it safer for students to walk and bike to school. The program is so popular in Minnesota that yearly funding requests have outstripped available dollars by as much as 5 to 1.

This demand, combined with a reduction in federal funding for the SRTS program as well as changes in the way that funding is allocated, caused a broad coalition of health advocates in Minnesota to begin a campaign in 2012 to fund a Minnesota-based SRTS program.

"The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota reached out to the Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition to partner on establishing a state Safe Routes to School program," says Rachel Callanan, regional vice president of advocacy for the American Heart Association’s Midwest Affiliate. "We knew from the federal funding applications that demand was strong. We tapped this unmet demand to build a strong coalition."  Read more here.

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Move MN Campaign Update from Erik

Wanna know the latest about the Move MN campaign and the American Heart Association's involvement? Then check out this message from AHA Campaign Coordinator, Erik Petzel.

 We have been busy this summer building support for passing a multi-model transportation funding package, including dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in 2015. As part of the Move MN coalition, a growing coalition of more than 200 elected officials, communities, organizations, associations, and businesses dedicated to fixing Minnesota's transportation problem, AHA attended several events throughout the summer to help build awareness for this work.

Thanks to the help of some of our awesome You’re the Cure advocates, AHA has collected over 1,600 petitions in support of Move MN and improving our state’s bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure at events around the state, from the St. Paul Classic Bike Tour to the Northland Heart Walk in Duluth. A BIG thank you to all of you who volunteered!

You’ll be hearing a lot more from us on this large initiative throughout the next year, so we thought now would be a great time to help answer the question we get asked most frequently. Why is AHA involved in transportation? The answer is simple:

The proposed bill that Move MN supports would be a historic win for health and active living advocates in Minnesota by providing, for the first time in the history of our state, significant, dedicated and statewide funding for developing and improving the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in Minnesota. Even better, Safe Routes to School, a program AHA has been instrumental in advocating for over the past several years, is named in the text of the bill as a program that is eligible for this funding!

Minnesota is experiencing an obesity epidemic. More than 60% of Minnesota adults are overweight or obese. This means 2.2 million of us are at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers. AHA sees dedicated investments that promote and encourage safe and convenient transportation options for pedestrians and bicyclists as a major step in our efforts to help build healthy lives in Minnesota, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke, by providing the conditions necessary for people to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives.

  • Nearly half of Minnesotans’ trips are three miles or less and 27% are no more than a mile, ideal distances for walking and bicycling for most people, but as many as 69% of these trips are taken in motor vehicles.
  • Communities throughout Minnesota lack basic infrastructure to allow more walking and bicycling. Less than a quarter of Minnesotans report their neighborhood as having bicycle paths or sidewalks on most of the streets in their neighborhood.
  • Transportation options such as walking and bicycling help reduce air pollution, which poses a major health risk and can lead to breathing problems, lung tissue damage and contribute to cardiovascular events like heart attacks. If half of all short trips in the Twin Cities alone were done by bicycle in just the summer, each year an estimated 300 deaths and $57 million in medical costs from lung diseases, obesity and heart disease would be prevented.

Are you willing to get involved and help us pass this historic campaign? Then let us know! Contact Erik Petzel, at

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Another Great Year for Heart-Health Policy in Minnesota

Thanks to the hard work of advocates like YOU, Minnesota had another great year in moving heart-health policies forward. Together, we have worked to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke and we have much to celebrate this year!

Below is a brief summary of the bills we helped passed this year:

Safe Routes to School Funding
We secured $1 million for SRTS infrastructure (sidewalks and safer crossings) and another $250,000 for non-infrastructure uses (training and SRTS planning). That’s a grand total of $1.25 million in new resources to make it safer for Minnesota kids to walk and bike to school!

AED Registry
All AEDS intended for public use in Minnesota will be required, as of Aug. 1, 2014, to be registered in a maintenance program that alerts owners to expired batteries or pads to ensure that these devices are always ready to deliver a life-saving shock if needed.

Stroke Registry
A statewide stroke registry is how we measure what we are doing for acute stroke care in Minnesota. This session we strengthened participation in the Minnesota Stroke Registry Program. 

STEMI Registry
For the first time, the Minnesota Department of Health will be participating in coordinated, statewide surveillance and reporting of STEMI heart attack care. Utilizing data from Mission: Lifeline hospitals and the Action Registry, the Minnesota Department of Health will now report on STEMI care in Minnesota the way they do for Stroke and Trauma.

Physical Education Study
The Minnesota Dept. of Education will be required to conduct a study to determine the current status of PE in Minnesota schools. Their report will be due to the legislature Jan. 15, 2015 and will help shape our policy direction next year as we seek to strengthen PE in Minnesota.

Thank you for your ongoing support and action this year!

We can’t spell CURE without U!

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