Group seeks more money to protect kids from cars near schools

SHARE Group seeks more money to protect kids from cars near schools
SchoolRoutes.jpg

Active Transportation Alliance wants legislators to increase funding for the Safe Routes to School program. | Supplied photo

A Chicago group that advocates for safe transportation is urging Illinois legislators to put more money into a program aiming to reduce the danger of children getting hit by cars within a block of schools.

The Active Transportation Alliance says nearly five children — on bike or on foot — are struck by cars within a block of schools statewide every day and account for 54 percent of all such crashes in Illinois.

The federally funded Safe Routes to School program receives about $3 million a year. Municipalities and schools around the state seeking to make safety improvements can request money through a grant process administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Active Transportation Alliance executive director Ron Burke hopes people will sign a petition on the group’s website and ask their legislators to support a significant increase in funding. The campaign was launched Friday.

“We also want the money to be prioritized to help lower income areas that tend to have higher crash rates and we want to streamline the application process,” Burke said, noting many low income communities lack the staff resources to apply for a grant.

The program has distributed nearly $50 million since it began in 2005, Burke said.

Funding for the program was slashed by more than $1 million in recent years. “There’s not enough money to go around. A lot of applications are turned down,” he said.

The money can be used in a variety of ways, from increased enforcement of traffic laws to adding a crossing guard or speed bumps.

In recent years the money helped pay for a sidewalk connecting a new subdivision in Monee to a local school.

“These crashes are far too common,” Burke said. “This alone is not a magic bullet, but part of a comprehensive approach.”

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