Category Archives: School

Mr. Ake

Father’s Colossal Determination Makes Streets Safer for Children

By Monica Leifer

Gener Ake, a parent at Bahia Vista School, didn’t like what he saw when he would bring his children to school. The sight of irresponsible driving around Bahia Vista Elementary bothered him, but what really made him sweat was the sight of children crossing the street in dangerous ways. Then, Gener Ake decided to grab the bull by the horns: He became a volunteer crossing guard two years ago, and since then has always been on the lookout for other volunteers. Rain or shine, he works three shifts, every single day in front of his son’s school.

At first, Gener did not find much support from the school administration, but that did not deter him. Quite the contrary, Gener held tight onto his plan. He did not even have traffic cones, so he had to borrow them from the PE teacher every single day. Later, some parents donated a few. Fortunately the situation improved, and now he has found his best ally in new Bahia Vista Principal, Cecilia Perez.

“Gener always helps in any way he can, whether it be with directing traffic, school events, or PTA leadership meetings. We are so grateful for everything he does and to have him as a part of our school community,” says Sarah Gaidano, Family Advocate at Bahia Vista Elementary.

Gener is hopeful that the new Safe Routes to Schools program in Bahia Vista will succeed at changing the habit of driving to school to that of walking or biking. He hopes that with reduced the traffic around the school and organized walking school buses, the safety for children and adults will increase. For this reason, Gener has volunteered to serve as Safe Routes’ Team Leader at Bahia Vista.

But even with the cooperation of the school administration and SR2S, Gener still has his work cut out for him. Dealing with neighbors and fellow parents is not always easy. “I lose my volunteers constantly because of the rudeness and aggressiveness of parents who don’t want to follow the rules of the road,” says Gener, who at this point is again working alone. His last standing volunteer, a grandpa, had a blood sugar level drop when a parent insulted him. Gener feels particularly irritated when people park in illegal spots, blinkers on, and often leaving babies alone inside their cars.

The Mexican father of two would like to see more help from the PTA. “Their support would go a long way,” as well as some more assistance from the District, who recently hired a crossing guard to work in front of the main entrance of the school. However, he feels more crossing guards are needed around the neighborhood. “My favorite spot to plant myself is near Pickleweed Park. There is a curve where you can’t see the cars coming and many kids (and their parents) cross the street right there,” he says. That was the place where one person was run over by a car about a year ago.

Currently, Gener is working three shifts from Monday to Friday. For the first shift, he is out on the street from 7:45 a.m. until all the kids are safely inside the school building. The second shift starts at 1 p.m., when kindergarten is dismissed and then, he patiently waits around until 2:30 p.m. for the rest of the students to come out.

But helping people cross the street is just one of Gener’s tasks. He also tries to prevent neighbors from taking the teachers’ parking spots and parents from blocking access to the school with their vehicles.

“I do all of this for the children, they are my inspiration,” Gener concludes.


For the Love of the Ride

On this National Bike to School Day, look at this example of perseverance and love. The dynamic duo pictured here are a Laurel Dell father, Brian Gleason, and his daughter Ava. For two years now, they have been biking over a mile-and-a-half to school at least three times a week.

Ava says that she started riding to school with her parents when she was only seven years old and was in first grade. Now, biking is part of a normal routine that she follows mostly with Brian since her mother’s bicycle was stolen.

The fact that they are determined doesn’t mean that the logistics are simple for father and daughter. Since the parents separated about a year ago, Brian rides most days by himself from Union Street in San Rafael, where he lives, all the way to H Street, to the mom’s house. From there, they go East and South to Laurel Dell. Brian points out that the roads around Ava’s mom’s house are safer since they are mostly back roads, whereas, when coming from his house there are many people driving too fast.

P1070705However, they wouldn’t give up their ride for anything. “This is an opportunity for my daughter and I to spend quality time together… and it’s fun, huh?” says Brian, looking at his child.  “And I love it when we stop and get ice cream on the way back home,” adds Ava.

While buckling up her helmet and leaving for home in her colorful bike, Ava shares a safety message: “You should always wear your helmet. If you don’t do it, you might hit a fence, get hurt, and end up in the hospital.”


lagunitas_crosswalk low rez

Funding Rolling in for School Pathway Improvements

By Wendi Kallins

Walking and rolling to school is about to get safer thanks to a new infusion of funds from the Transportation Authority of Marin.  Over $4 million was recently approved for 27 school-related projects through TAM’s Safe Pathway program.

Soon parents and children will see newly painted crosswalks, flashing beacons, new and repaired sidewalks, better pathways, and improved intersections at schools throughout the county.

Tiburon concept planIn Tiburon, a vital intersection across Tiburon Boulevard that leads to Bel Aire School will have special green-striped bike lanes providing easier access to Blackfield drive along with other improvements.  Last school year, the Town of Tiburon had funded a weekly bike train with paid conductors.  This year, volunteers have taken over and are now riding together almost daily.  This intersection has been a problem area due to the high traffic levels and travel speeds.  The improvements will go a long way to improving the safety of the bike train to be able to navigate the intersection without conflicting with cars for space.

Fairfax pioneered the two-mile long Bike Spine, a series of signage and pavement markings bike spinealong the neighborhood routes to school.  They will now use their $350,000 grant to complete the pathway’s last gap between Oak Manor Drive to White Hill School, allowing students to ride along busy Sir Frances Drake Boulevard on a separated pathway for the last stretch.

Residents of the Canal area of San Rafael have had to ride alongside automobiles on the narrow Grand Ave Bridge that leads to San Rafael High School, Montecito Shopping Center and Downtown San Rafael.  A new bridge, funded with the $824,000 grant will provide pedestrians and bicyclists with a much safer way to travel outside the Canal neighborhood.

Neighbors of Olive School on Plum Street in Novato have been waiting for years to see some sidewalks improved on this important passage to the school.  Thanks to the Safe Pathways grant their waiting is over.

What is Safe Pathways?

Lagunitas conceptThe Safe Pathways program is a capital improvement element of the Safe Routes to Schools Program under Measure A.  The $4.1 million that was just approved includes funds from transportation sales tax revenues, from MTC’s One Bay Area Grant, and from other sources.

In this round, the request for proposals allowed the jurisdictions to choose between small and large projects.  The small projects had to be under $25,000 and be completed within one year of funding allocation.  Small projects include installation of traffic safety devices such as the rectangular rapid flashing beacons and speed feedback signs.

$3,850,000 was set aside for large project applications requesting up to $350,000, except for projects requesting federal OBAG funds which had no maximum limit (i.e. the San Rafael Grand Street Bridge).  These projects mostly consist of sidewalk construction and new bike lanes.

How Were Projects Evaluated?

Larkspur planApplications were evaluated based on the ability to relieve a safety problem on school routes, complete a gap in the bicycle and pedestrian facilities, maximize daily use by students, and attract matching funds.  The TAM staff made sure that there was equitable funding throughout the county.

Large projects needed to be identified as part of each jurisdiction’s Safe Routes to Schools Travel Plans for their schools.  These plans emerged from the Safe Routes to Schools Task Forces which consist of volunteer team leaders, elected school and city officials, law enforcement and public works.  Walk audits gave the task force members an opportunity to identify the problem areas.  The Safe Routes engineering team then worked closely with the local public works to develop concept solutions to be added to the travel plans.


 Small Projects ($25,000 maximum allocation)
Agency   Project Name and Description RecommendedAmount
Fairfax SFD/Taylor Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons (RRFB) $25,000
Marin County Changeable Message Sign (CMS) on schools in unincorporated areas $18,000
Marin County SFD/Lagunitas School Road RRFB $25,000
Marin County Butterfield Road/Green Valley Court RRFB $25,000
Marin County Strawberry Drive at Strawberry Point School RRFB $25,000
Mill Valley Throckmorton Sidewalk Gap Closure $25,000
Novato Solar Speed Feedback signs at four designated schools $24,500
Novato Ignacio Blvd/Laurelwood Crosswalk Enhancements $25,000
Novato Ignacio Blvd/Country Club Drive Crosswalk Enhancements $25,000
Novato South Novato Blvd/Lark Court Crosswalk Enhancements $25,000
Novato South Novato Blvd/Yukon Crosswalk Enhancements $25,000
Ross SFD Sidewalk Construction $25,000
San Anselmo SFD Mid-Block Crosswalk Improvements $25,000
San Rafael Solar Powered Crossing Signs at Fifth Avenue and Cottage Avenue $25,000
Tiburon Ned Way/Tiburon Blvd Crosswalk RRFB $25,000
Total $367,500 


 Large Projects ($350,000 maximum allocation)


Agency   Project Name and Description RecommendedAmount


Mill Valley Camino Alto Bike Ped Improvements $350,000
San Rafael Grand Avenue Bike/Ped Bridge $824,000
TAM TAM Junction Class II Bicycle Improvements along Hwy 1 $350,000
Larkspur Doherty Drive Bike Ped Gap Closure $350,000
Novato Plum Street Sidewalk Improvements $350,000
San Anselmo Brookside Elementary School Sidewalk Gap Closure Project $350,000
Tiburon Greenwood Cove/Blackfield & Tiburon Blvd Bike Ped Improvements $116,000
Sausalito/Marin County Bridgeway Pedestrian Improvements:A. Bridgeway Sidewalk Improvements ($204k) for Sausalito

B. Hwy 101 Underpass Lighting Upgrade ($146k) for Marin County.

Fairfax Fairfax Bike Spine Gap Completion Project $350,000
Corte Madera Tamalpais Drive Pedestrian Crossing Enhancements $90,000
Marin County Pedestrian Improvement Project along major school routes. $350,000
San Anselmo San Anselmo School Route Bike Spine Project Contingency
Sausalito Coloma Street and Ebbtide Ave Pedestrian Improvements Contingency
  Total $3,830,000
sun valley cropped

Parents Lead the Way to Campus in Clusters of Walking School Buses

Sun Valley with Gwen as Polar BearWearing sneakers and a smile, parents at Sun Valley Elementary School are making walking to school a culture by creating a sustainable Walking School Bus program.   What is a Walking School Bus?  It’s a group of young children who are led by parents to school.  Two (or more) families qualify as a Walking School Bus.  The student population at Sun Valley Elementary School has grown 25% over the past five years.  Traffic congestion around the school has increased in conjunction with the growing student boom, creating residential driving tension.  According to Marin Safe Routes to Schools, a Walking School Bus is an effective traffic calming strategy.  Walking School Buses are not only ‘safety in numbers,’ but are engaging social groups to help make walking to school a habit. “Sun Valley Elementary is within walking distance for most students,” said Julie Harris, Principal at Sun Valley Elementary School.  “The school is encouraging Walking School Buses as a way to reduce traffic by having kids use their feet to get to school.  Walking to school is also an opportunity to teach young children a life-long lesson to walk places that are not too far from home.”  For families that live more than one mile away, Sun Valley suggests driving part way to school, and then walking the remaining route with a Walking School Bus.  Additionally, walking with others bonds neighborhoods, nurtures student/parent friendships and creates fond memories. “A Walking School Bus lets kids enjoy nature and get fresh air before the start of the school day,” said Jennifer Sellers, a parent at Sun Valley Elementary.  “Walking is a way to calm children before the start of the day, and boost their concentration level in the classroom.  I get to talk with children when leading a Jen SunValley WSB2014Walking School Bus and connect with our school community.  Walking takes an extra 10-15 minutes of planning to leave by foot instead of car, but it’s well worth it.  Walking is a calmer transition for kids and parents to begin any day, and is less stressful than getting stuck in a traffic jam.” Sun Valley is making their Walking School Bus program sustainable by recruiting parent volunteers via SignUp Genius, a communications tool that allows a parent volunteer to sign-up for shifts online.  Sun Valley currently has three Walking School Buses that travel to school every Wednesday, and four more that travel the first Wednesday of every month for a total of seven.   But the program is just starting.  Recruiting parent volunteers to walk every week is the most challenging task in creating a Walking School Bus program, and a master schedule is important to keep the program rolling all year long.  The rule of thumb recommended by Safe Route to Schools is 4-6 students per adult leading a Walking School Bus. For more information on how to start a Walking School Bus in your Marin County neighborhood, please contact Laura Kelly at Safe Routes to Schools Marin at (415) 456-3469 ext 2# or by email at