by Natalie Iwasa
“Take the Hawaii Safe Routes to School Day Challenge.” That was the parting message of the Hawaii Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Summit held at Kapiolani Community College last week Friday. SRTS is a federal program that focuses on creating safer, healthier communities by emphasizing walking and biking to school, and supporters from around the state met to learn the status of SRTS in Hawaii and its next steps.
The state has received over $7 million in SRTS funding since 2005. Unfortunately, most of this funding has not yet been awarded, and Hawaii remains dead last out of all states in the amount obligated. According to representatives from the Hawaii Department of Transportation (DOT), one reason for the holdup was wording of the grant contract. The contract recently cleared the state Attorney General’s office and is currently being reviewed by the DOT. After concerns about further delays were expressed by summit attendees, Alvin Takeshita, the state’s highways administrator, said the contract review would be completed within 45 days, and the next round of funding requests would be advertised shortly thereafter.
The summit also offered examples of SRTS success stories, including walk to school days on Kauai, which are held the fourth Wednesday of each month school is in session. Kauai has the full support of its County Council and Mayor Carvalho, Jr., and the local media has published articles about each event, which seem to get bigger each time.
SRTS ties in with other policies, such as school wellness, land use and housing, and the importance of integrating these policies was discussed.
So what is the challenge? Parents, teachers and volunteers are asked to get kids biking and walking to school on the fourth Wednesday of every month, starting with February 22 and culminating in a special challenge for Bike to School Day Tuesday, May 15.
It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3:
1. Pick a school – any school;
2. Pick a route – a bikeable or walkable route; and
3. Pick up kids along that route, just as a bus picks up its passengers on the way to school.
Participants are requested to sign up at www.pathhawaii.org/hui. The Hui also has a variety of resources available about SRTS. Based on the selected routes, volunteers will invite legislators, councilmembers, directors of county and state departments, mayors and the governor to join us on May 15.
The goal for one school in particular is worth noting. Bike Mom’s goal for Honolulu Waldorf School, in honor of its 50th anniversary, is for 50% participation from students in first grade through high school. Let the challenge begin!