As the name implies, Safer Streets for All doesn't have a very narrow focus.

As the name implies, Safer Streets for All doesn't have a very narrow focus.

The nonprofit Clintonville organization, which was launched in the fall, will soon begin focusing on one of three major areas, that of getting children to school safely by walking or riding their bikes, something other than car or bus.

A meeting of the Safe Routes to School committee of Safer Routes for All, open to anyone interested in the topic, has been scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the offices of Consider Biking, 4041 N. High St.

The Safer Streets for All people aren't exactly reinventing the wheel with this plank in their platform, board member and committee chairwoman Elizabeth Smith said.

"It's a national group and also a state group, so we'll be affiliating with that under Safer Streets for All," she said.

The Feb. 1 gathering will be the organizational meeting, intended to discuss "where we want to go, how we want to do it," according to Smith, who also serves on the Clintonville Area Commission's education committee.

"So it's just kind of a logical extension to go from one to the other," Smith said.

"She's the right person for the job," said Mike McLaughlin, the CAC liaison to the committee.

Smith encouraged parents and others to attend the organizational session.

"We would love to have people come," she said.

"Safe Routes to School programs are sustained efforts by parents, schools, community leaders and local, state, and federal governments to improve the health and well-being of children by enabling and encouraging them to walk and bicycle to school," according to the website of the National Center for Safe Routes to School.

"SRTS programs examine conditions around schools and conduct projects and activities that work to improve safety and accessibility, and reduce traffic and air pollution in the vicinity of schools. As a result, these programs help make bicycling and walking to school safer and more appealing transportation choices, thus encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age," the website states.

Smith would even go beyond mere walking and biking. She said that the Clintonville Safe Routes to School initiative is intend to encourage children to not only walk or ride their bikes but also "skip, jump, whatever."

"It's just trying to identify the barriers that parents have of their children not being safe walking or biking to schools, and a lot of the solutions are low-ticket items," McLaughlin said. "It just sounds like a great program."

While improving walking or biking safety from neighborhoods to schools can involve "big-ticket items" such as installing or replacing sidewalks, inexpensive and common-sense efforts can also encourage less dependence on vehicles, according to Smith.

"There are a lot of things that can be done without a lot of money that we will pursue, probably in the first place," she said.

Neighbors working together would be one example.

"Maybe we get six families on one street figuring out they're all driving a car," Smith said.

These families could organize what the committee chairwoman called a "walking bus," which isn't a vehicle at all but parents on a rotating basis supervising all of the children on their trip to school. This would also help to reduce traffic congestion at many Clintonville schools, "which is horrible," Smith said.

"It gets the parents out moving, it gets the kids out moving, it encourages the parents and the kids to realize you don't need a car for everything," Smith said.

From the website of the National Center for Safe Routes to School, based at the University of North Caroline Highway Safety Research Center:

"Research on the safety of children walking and bicycling to school began in the U.S. in the early 1970s and was highlighted by release of the U.S. Department of Transportation publication 'School Trip Safety and Urban Play Areas' in 1975. The term 'Safe Routes to School' was first used in Denmark in the late 1970s as part of a very successful initiative to reduce the number of children killed while walking and bicycling to school. Safe Routes to School spread internationally, with programs springing up throughout Europe and in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

"The first modern Safe Routes to School program in the U.S. began in 1997 in the Bronx, N.Y. In 1998, Congress funded two pilot SRTS programs through the US DOT. NHTSA issued $50,000 each for Safe Routes to School pilot programs in Marin County, Calif., and Arlington, Mass. Within a year after the launch of the pilot programs, many other grassroots Safe Routes to School efforts were started throughout the United States.

"As word spread in the pedestrian and bicyclist community of success with the NHTSA pilot programs, interest in a broader program grew. Efforts to include a larger SRTS program in federal legislation began in earnest in 2002. In 2003, the League of American Bicyclists organized the first meeting of leaders in pedestrian and bicycle issues to talk about SRTS issues and how a national program might work. At the same time, a number of states were developing their own SRTS programs, continuing to build momentum for the movement.

"In July 2005, Congress passed federal legislation that established a National Safe Routes to School program. The program, which was signed into law in August 2005, dedicates a total of $612 million towards SRTS from 2005 to 2009. The Federal Highway Administration administers the Safe Routes to School program funds and provides guidance and regulations about SRTS programs. Federal SRTS funds will be distributed to states based on student enrollment, with no state receiving less than $1 million per year. SRTS funds can be used for both infrastructure projects and non-infrastructure activities. The legislation also requires each state to have a Safe Routes to School Coordinator to serve as a central point of contact for the state.

"With the federal Safe Routes to School program, there will be a significant increase in funds and institutional support to implement SRTS programs in states and communities across the country.

"So a new chapter in the history of Safe Routes to School programs might soon be written as the benefits of communities and states establishing and advancing Safe Routes programs and issues are learned."