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"Walking Day Arrives" as MN Pushes for Safe Routes to School

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PHOTO: Legislation introduced at the state Capitol aims to provide more students across Minnesota the opportunity to safely walk or bike to school. Photo credit: Jay Carter
PHOTO: Legislation introduced at the state Capitol aims to provide more students across Minnesota the opportunity to safely walk or bike to school. Photo credit: Jay Carter
April 2, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. - As people across Minnesota lace it up for today's National Walking Day, moves are afoot at the state Legislature to ensure more students have safe routes to school.

A bill from state Sen. Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, would provide funding and resources to communities that want to make upgrades to infrastructure such as sidewalks and street crossings for pedestrians and cyclists.

"And really recognizing the need of more mobility that needs to be happening," she said. "We have the diabetic epidemic, the obesity epidemic, in my opinion are things that are preventable, and this is a program that really targets just that, to be able to get our kids active and moving."

Among the supporters of the Safe Routes legislation is the American Heart Association, which also is the group behind National Walking Day. The effort encourages all Americans to take at least 30 minutes today to get up and walk, taking steps toward a healthier life.

The Safe Routes to School plan for the state is patterned after a federal program, which Franzen said has brought some progress but continually falls far short of the need.

"Last federal funding cycle, we received from Minnesota 63 applications from localities requesting $15 million, and we only had $6.7 (million)," she said. "So, that's the federal money - so there's definitely, as you can see, a need for the state to also be part of that solution to establish Safe Routes to School programs and fund them accordingly."

The text of SF687/HF797, the Safe Routes legislation, is online at revisor.mn.gov. Information on National Walking Day is at heart.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN