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You're Invited - Safe Routes to School Twitter Party!

Join us for a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Twitter Party!

Have questions about #SRTS? We have answers! Please join us for a Twitter Party where we’ll discuss Safe Routes to School efforts and how it relates to the health of Iowans. Show your support, get your questions answered and learn how you can take action.

When: Tuesday, October 6th, 10am-11am
Party Hosts to Follow: @AHAIowa
Hashtag: #SRTS and #IALeg
Giveaway! Everyone who Tweets using the party hashtags will be entered to win a really cool bicycle themed gift basket

You’ve been invited to a Twitter Party – Now What? So, you've been invited to a Twitter Party, now you'd like to know how to participate, right?  This is a short guide explaining all about Twitter Parties – how to sign up, how to participate, and how to win!

What is a Twitter Party? A Twitter Party is a fun, fast paced conversation held on the social platform, Twitter. Most parties usually revolve around one topic and the Party Host initiates chat between participants by using a specific Twitter Party hashtag.

How Do I Participate in a Twitter Party? Anyone can participate! The only things you'll need is a Twitter account, follow the Party Host, know the Twitter Party hashtags, and send a tweet or two during the party!  When you tweet, be sure to use the hashtags from the party so that all party-goers can see your tweets and you'll be entered to win a giveaway prize!

Tip! Some Twitter Party enthusiasts find using Tweetdeck makes it easier to follow a fast paced party.
Tweet this: Show your support for Safe Routes to School by joining a Twitter Party! Join in the #SRTS conversation Oct. 6 from 10-11am with @AHAIowa

See you on Twitter!

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Step it Up! The Surgeon General Advocates the Benefits of Walkable Communities

We applaud the United States Surgeon General for recently issuing a call to action to address major public health challenges such as heart disease and diabetes. Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities articulates the health benefits of walking while addressing the fact that many communities unacceptably lack safe and convenient places for individuals to walk or wheelchair roll.

Data consistently show there are safety and accessibility issues that make communities less walkable. A 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Transportation, for example, found that three out of every 10 Americans reported that no sidewalks existed along any streets in their neighborhood. In many communities violence – and the perception of violence – may prove a barrier to walking. 

“Everyone deserves to have a safe place to walk or wheelchair roll. But in too many of our communities, that is not the reality,” said Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the 19th U.S. Surgeon General. “We know that an active lifestyle is critical to achieving good overall health. And walking is a simple, effective and affordable way to build physical activity into our lives. That is why we need to step it up as a country ensuring that everyone can choose to walk in their own communities.”

The Surgeon General calls on community planners and local leaders to create more areas for walking and wheelchair rolling and to prioritize the development of safe routes for children to get to and from schools. The call to action suggests that these designs should include sidewalks, curb cuts, crosswalks, safe crossings for the visually impaired and more green spaces. The Surgeon General further calls on city managers, law enforcement and community and public health leaders to address safety concerns by better maintaining public spaces, working with residents to promote a shared sense of community ownership, ensuring proper street lighting and fostering neighborhood watch programs.

The Surgeon General’s report discusses the health benefits of walking and calls on individuals to make walking a priority in their lives. Fewer than half of all U.S. adults get enough physical activity to reduce their risk of chronic disease, and only a quarter of high school students get the recommended amount. Physical inactivity contributes to heart and lung disease, diabetes and cancer, which account for 86% of our nation’s health care costs. Building walking into daily life can reduce disease and save money.

“We know that an average of 22 minutes a day of physical activity – such as brisk walking – can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes,” added Dr. Murthy. “The key is to get started because even a small first effort can make a big difference in improving the personal health of an individual and the public health of the nation.”

At the AHA, we applaud the efforts of communities across our state for their efforts to improve the walkability and rollability of their streets and sidewalks.  We stand ready to partner with other communities to improve opportunities to be active by walking, rolling, biking and other physical activities. 

To read the Surgeon General’s Call to Action and learn how to promote walking and walkable communities, please visit

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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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