Safe Routes to School program would get financial boost with fee

Local Safe Routes to School programs would get an unprecedented financial boost in Sonoma County if a proposed $10 vehicle registration fee makes it to the ballot and is passed by voters.

Safe Routes, a national program to encourage and educate students to walk and cycle to school, could pull in $15 million over the 20-year life of the fee if put on the ballot and passed.

The program, most often linked with International Walk and Roll to School Day and bicycle rodeos, is already being implemented via various state and federal grant funds in cities and school districts across Sonoma County.

About $45,000 a year from the Measure M quarter-cent sales tax passed by Sonoma County voters in 2004 is already directed to Safe Routes to School.

The city of Santa Rosa is operating a Safe Routes program with a $250,000 federal grant.

Sebastopol is working in conjunction with the school district there through the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition to implement education programs and infrastructure upgrades with a three-year $250,000 grant.

A $500,000 federal grant was awarded in 2008 to the Sonoma County Department of Health Services who contracted with the bicycle coalition to work with schools in the Roseland and Bellevue districts on bike and pedestrian safety.

The grant recently paid for a mobile speed trailer.

Sebastopol schools have instituted walk and roll Wednesdays and give out prizes to students and classes that have the highest percentage of participants, said superintendent Liz Schott.

Presentations have also been made in classes to teach students road awareness and link transportation choices to environmental impacts.

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