$1 Billion Safe Streets for All Funding – We Need to Plan for Safe Youth Mobility

Communities are planning for and rolling out improvements to slow traffic speeds, improve community mobility, and make it safer for people to travel around their communities. It is essential that these plans consider how young people who rely on walking, bicycling, and transit access essential community destinations, especially schools. SS4A can elevate or re-invigorate your community’s commitment to keeping kids safe as they walk and bike throughout their communities. We’ve shared highlights on this program when it first launched in 2022 and elevating Safe Routes to School programs funded by the program in 2023. With another billion dollars available for safety planning and demonstration projects, we cannot afford to let this opportunity pass by without planning for Safe Routes to School and youth mobility!

Consider this your call to action: Safe Routes to School programs, practitioners, advocates, and communities that care about safe, active, equitable mobility for kids and people of all ages need to apply for Safe Streets for All planning grants. Read on to learn what’s at stake and what actions Safe Routes to School folks can take to receive funding for their communities.

The Opportunity: In late February 2024, the US Department of Transportation released the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the latest round of Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grants. There is $1 billion available to support local communities to improve roadway safety by developing comprehensive safety action plans and implementing strategies that reduce and eliminate roadway fatalities and serious injuries. Research shows that Safe Routes to School works to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries for youth.

While implementation funds are available, we are going to focus on the planning and demonstration grants. Analyzing awardees from the first two years of funding we know that there are funds available for two activities: planning and demonstration grants and implementation grants. The first two years of the program teach us that the implementation grants are incredibly competitive, and the planning grants are about as easy to get as federal awards come. All eligible applicants for planning grants have received funding. So, we’ll focus on the planning and demonstration grant opportunity.

Planning and Demonstration Grants have three different types of activities:

  • Develop an Action Plan
  • Conduct supplemental safety planning to enhance an Action Plan
  • Carry out demonstration activities to inform the development of, or an update to, an Action Plan

How Safe Routes to School Programs can Tap into SS4A Funding

Recommendation #1: Apply to develop a Safe Routes to School Action Plan

Safe Route to School Action Plans guide communities in developing a robust and sustainable Safe Routes to School program. They identify potential engineering improvements and programming strategies that addresses local needs. If you want Safe Routes to School projects to get funded – plan for them! Submit an application for Supplemental Planning to develop a Safe Routes to School action plan that complements and adds to your community’s comprehensive safety action plan. You can apply for this if your community has an existing comprehensive safety action plan or is in the process of developing one through SS4A. Your community can also apply concurrently to develop its first comprehensive safety action plan and a supplemental Safe Routes to School plan. 

Recommendation #2: Supplemental Planning for Safe Routes to School

Perhaps you live in a community with a Vision Zero Action Plan and a High Injury Network, but it has not been analyzed with a focus on where crashes involving youth have occurred. Schools and youth mobility patterns are different than those of adults. And, if we don’t specifically analyze the data with a focus on crashes involving young people or transportation around schools, the data may obscure these issues. Then, city and regional transportation planning funds will systematically exclude youth mobility.

You can apply for funding to develop a supplemental analysis that focuses on youth transportation patterns/Safe Routes to School. We cannot achieve zero traffic fatalities and deaths if we systematically ignore where kids and young people are walking and bicycling – to reach this shared goal, we need to assess and plan for kids’ mobility.

  • Conduct supplemental planning to analyze data on injuries and fatalities by age, location, and travel mode to ensure the safety risks to young people are included in planning for and prioritizing roadway safety improvements.
  • Encourage the analysis of traffic safety data for all schools, parks, and other key destinations for youth to identify those with the greatest safety risks.
  • Develop projects and strategies to address dangerous locations and proactively improve corridors and intersections with unsafe characteristics.

Recommendation #3: Apply for a Demonstration Project for Safe Routes to School

Apply for SS4A funding to pilot or install quick build projects around schools. Framing these as beneficial to kids, especially on their way to school, may be a more fruitful way to introduce traffic calming measures to the community at-large. Safety demonstration activities can include piloting Safe Routes to School non-infrastructure methods as well. The NOFO specifically calls out testing new educational campaign messaging and other pilot programs for behavioral activities as eligible uses. An important component of the demonstration projects is that they must be evaluated, a concept the Safe Routes to School community knows well.

Eligible applicants include local governments, metropolitan planning organizations, tribal governments, and/or other political subdivisions of a state, and while not eligible to apply on their own, nonprofit partners can be sub-granted from the funding award.

There is plenty of time for Safe Routes to School practitioners and communities interested in youth mobility to apply for these funds. There are three deadlines for planning and demonstration grants:

  • Thursday, April 4, 2024, 5:00 PM (ET) 
  • Thursday, May 16, 2024, 5:00 PM (ET) 
  • Thursday, August 29, 2024, 5:00 PM (ET)

Don’t Miss this Opportunity!
Pursuing Safe Streets for All planning grants for Safe Routes to School represents a generational investment in your community’s you safety and mobility. Let’s put this $1 Billion to work so our future is filled with safe, healthy kids getting around their communities.