Eugene Area Advocacy Primer Part II: Safe Routes to School

Those of us living and riding in the Eugene/Springfield area have a wonderful problem on our hands.  There are so many advocacy organizations in our area working to improve our lives that it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all.  It can be difficult to see how these organizations fit and work together, and which is responsible for what.   Well, luckily for you gentlefolk, WeBikeEugene has come to the rescue!  Last spring we circulated a questionnaire to as many of the local advocacy groups we could, and most of them answered back.  From this we have created the Eugene Area Advocacy Primer.

The primer is a multi-part series which will run more-or-less weekly whenever we can throughout the rest of summer, and cover organizations such as GEARs, The BikeLane Coalition, The UO Bike Program, Safe Routes to School, The BTA, and point2point Solutions! If you’d like us to cover an organization that is not listed here, let us know!

Part II of this series covers The Eugene Safe Routes to School Program.  The Eugene program is managed by the very busy Shane MacRhodes, who also sits on the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), is a GEARs board member, WBE contributor, and driving force behind Kidical Mass – for starters.

Take the jump so see all that Safe Routes to School does for cyclists in Eugene, children and adult commuters alike.

Name of Organization: Eugene Safe Routes to School

Websites: (affiliated, sort of)

Person Interviewed: Shane MacRhodes, Program Manager
I am the Program Manager for the Eugene Safe Routes to School program.  As an employee of 4J my focus (and funding) is towards schools, students, and parents in the 4J school district but I also lead a team made up of the City of Eugene Transportation, COE Recreation, the BTA Bike Safety Instructor, Lane Coalition for Healthy and Active Youth (LCAY), point2point Solutions/SchoolSolutions, the University of Oregon, and the Eugene School District 4J.

Mission: Eugene Safe Routes to School is a community approach to encourage and enable more people to walk and bike to school safely.

Size of Organization: There are currently 7 “active” SRTS schools in 4J; Monroe & Roosevelt Middle Schools, McCornack, Edison, Camas Ridge, Buena Vista/Meadowlark, and Family School.  Active is defined as schools who have completed their Action Plans and participate regularly in at least some encouragement, education, or enforcement activities (like Walk & Bike to School Day).

Organization Structure: I am currently based out of Roosevelt Middle School but work throughout the district. I lead a team whose efforts are all involved in reducing childhood obesity, increasing safety, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, and getting kids active in their transportation modes.

Legal Definition of Organization: Safe Routes to School is based out of the Eugene School District 4J and the one paid position for this program is the Program Manager (Shane).

Areas Covered: My work is focused on 4J School District but I lead a team whose members work throughout the city and the metropolitan area (Eugene/Springfield/Coburg).

Do you have any sister organizations or are you part of a larger network?

We are part of the National Center for Safe Routes to School and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.  The first is the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) program that manages the funding and organization of the National SRST program.  The Partnership is the advocacy arm working to increase funding and effectiveness of SRTS and they also offer many resources to various state and local programs.

How does SRTS interact with other Eugene organizations and state organizations such as the BTA?
I work closely with the BTA especially in the implementation of the Bicycle Education program, assisting new hires (they have a lot of turn over) get familiar with the program and area, assisting with some of the classes and community rides, and facilitating communication with other community members and businesses (like bike shops).

I also work very closely with GEARs as I sit on the Board and the education and encouragement work they do helps further the SRTS programs and projects as well.
The other organizations on the Team are also very important (LCHAY, City of Eugene (PW & Rec), UO (PPPM Program), and other 4J departments like Facilities & Transportation).

How does SRTS interact with city, county, and federal government?
We work closely with the City on various programs and projects, they help sponsor events like the Blackberry Jamboree and Bike Day, we’ve supported their Breakfast at the Bridges events, we’re involved with the Eye-to-Eye Campaign.  We have not worked much with the County (though some schools are on County roads and I have spoken with Celia Barry (County Transportation Director) a couple times).  The federal government funds the SRTS program and I have spoken with DeFazio’s aide Karmen Fore about our program and invited Rep. DeFazio to come see our program in action… but it hasn’t worked yet with his schedule and our special events.

What is a brief history of SRTS?
SRTS has a long history in Eugene with “Mobile School Presentations” of bikes and “alternative transportation” dating back to the mid 1990’s when the Center for Appropriate Transport would go into schools to do the presentations and talk about getting kids biking more.  In the mid 2000’s CAT started some Walking School Bus Programs at a few schools and in about 2005 LTD started the Smart Ways to School program to support families with transit, carpool, biking, and walking resources.   In 2006 a SRTS committee at Roosevelt Middle School formed and in 2007 they applied for funding through ODOT for a part time SRTS Coordinator to help build a pilot program at Roosevelt and eventually for the 4J School District.  The Program Manager was hired in December of 2007 (that’s me).  We’ve just passed two years of a full SRTS program at 4J and are working on growing the program to a more regional focus.

What are some projects that SRTS is working on or has worked on?

I’ll attach a bubble chart I made recently to help me keep track (see attached). The biggies now are- Walk + Bike to School Day (October), Walk + Bike to School Challenge Month (May), Bike Day/Blackberry Jamboree, a Bike Education Program for 4J, Kidical Mass, Confident Cycling Classes, and the Infrastructure Grant.

Editors Note:  WBE has covered previous SRTS projects, including a $495,000 grant that will greatly improve cycling in Eugene for everyone (reported here and here).  WBE has also published Shane’s March report to the 4J School Board which explains more of what SRTS is responsible for.

Click to Embiggen (PDF)

What are some challenges that have faced SRTS?

Time and resources to do it all… there’s so much great potential and so much to be done!!  Trying to focus and consolidate and not overbook.

Enforcement is one of the E’s of SRTS we are most light on too.  Having more police time (and energy/interest) for enforcement would be nice.

Author: C-Gir