The Safe Routes to School National Partnership, an organization dedicated to making it safer for children to walk and bike to school and allocates 1.1 Billion dollars to state Department of Transportation, has released its 2016 state report cards. This is the first time that these reports have been issued so the data collected will be used as a starting point or base year for future years to come. The grade or score on your report card places you into four categories: Lacing Up (0-50), Warming Up (51-100), Making Strides (101-150), and the highest level Building Speed (151-200). The state of Georgia received 85 points, putting the state at the Warming Up Category.
The score per state was calculated by the committee choosing core to areas and reviewed how much effort, time and resources each state is providing to each of them. The four categories are: Complete Streets and Active Transportation (55 points, 27.5%), Safe Routes to School and Active Transportation Funding (70 points, 35%), Active Neighborhoods and Schools (45 points, 22.5%), and State Physical Planning (30 points, 15%).
Complete Streets policies are used to get individual states Department of Transportation to commit to take some action towards making streets safe to complete any type of transportation (bike, walking, driving) people of all shapes and sizes. They enable communities to be more active, this leads to designs for Active Transportation (cycling and walking), to remodel streets and crosswalks to be safer for non-motorists. These designs should follow NACTO Guidelines (National Association of City Transportation Officials) supported by the Federal Highway Administration, which provide safe designs for bicycle lanes. In the Complete Streets category California and Colorado received all 55 points that the category had to offer but Georgia scored not too far behind by receiving 51 out of 55 points. In the last few years Georgia has adopted a clear and precise Complete Streets Policy, they have addressed policy implementation, and have adopted goals to decrease pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. What prevented the state from being rewarded all 55 points, is that it has fallen short in regards of adopting NACTO Guidelines, causing Georgia to only receive 6 out of 10 points in that subcategory.
TAP (Transportation Alternatives Program) was created by Congress in 2012 and acts as the main source of funds to build active transports. It is distributed by state DOTs to projects that participate in TAP Competitions. The Safe Routes to School and Active Transportation Funding, in general, this area showed very low scores per state, several in fact received 0 points out of 70 (Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas). Georgia only scored 6 out of 70 points in this category. In some subcategories the state received negative points. The state received a score of -4 because it transferred 10%-40% of funds out of TAP and a score of -10 because it doesn’t hold any TAP competitions. Nor do they provide state funding to Safe Routes to School and give special attention to “high need” communities. The state does, however, obligate Safe Routes to School funding ,chosen a state Safe Routes to School (Emmanuella Morthil), and gives technical and application assistance.
In the next category, Active Neighborhood, (neighborhood and schools that encourage physical activity) the highest scoring area was the District of Columbia with a score of 36 out of 45 points. A majority of other states scored in the range between 20-30 points. Georgia scored a 22 out of 45 points. Once again the state of Georgia had a low score when it came to providing state funding to projects and level of access to parks and sidewalks because less than 19.6% of the state population lives within a half mile of a state park. The state scored a 2 when it came to level of access youth had to parks and recreation centers because only 27.5 to 54.5% of youth in the state have this. However the state does have national physical education standards and has required schools to allow communities to use their facilities.
In the last category, State Physical Activity Planning, the results vary with scores at both the high and low ends of the spectrum. While Arkansas and Vermont were the only two states to score all 30 points in this category, seven other states were able to receive a 26 out of 30 points (South Carolina, Maryland, Alabama, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Missouri). At the other end of the spectrum, there are just as many states. Two states received a score of 0 (New Mexico and Tennessee) while several other states, including Georgia, received a score of 6 points out of 30. The state has failed to adopt a state physical activity plan or host a governors council on physical activity plan or host a governor’s council on physical activity. They only received partial credit for dedicating state staff to physical activity, because while their are some state staffers that focus on physical activity, that is not their main focus.
However when you look at the grade per region, which is calculated by averaging the scores of that region, the South, Northeast, Midwest, and Mountain West score sufficient enough to be in the Warming Up Category. While the West and Mid-Atlantic scores placed them in the Making Strides category. When compared to other regions The South was the lowest scoring region, with a score of 80.5 points, the highest scoring region was the West with 117.4 points out of 200.
It should be acknowledged that this is the first report card and is to be used as base year data. This report card is to get state governments engaged in helping local governments improve quality of life by either providing funding or passing policies that will make it easier to create better infrastructure and make healthier items more accessible to citizens.
Please take this information and use it to encourage state officials to make a difference, if we all try to make an effort then by the next report card Georgia will go from light green to navy blue.
For more information please look at the PDF below.