Category Archives: bike


Creating Resilient Sons and Daughters

By: Gwen Froh – parent of a 20 year old son and a 23 year old daughter.

When your child asks for that last glass of water as you’re tucking her into bed, it’s hard to image her being grown and independent one day.  It happens, and for many of us who now have teens and young adults, it’s as though the Millennium Falcon transported our child into another universe at warp speed.  And, there’s no going back.

For those with kids in elementary school, it’s not too late to instill healthy habits that will matter later to your teen.  Here is a glimpse of what an older student and her parents say about the benefits of investing in active transportation at a young age … it pays off far more than one may realize.

When Jenna Neustaetter, Senior at Redwood High School and President of the Environmental Action Club, was asked what had a huge impact on her life, she reflects positively on her upbringing.   “The resiliency that I learn while growing up has given me the confidence in my own ability to carry myself through life.”  Jenna eagerly looks forward to college next year with the self-assurance to be on her own.

Jenna admits it was tough at times because her parents typically didn’t “give-in” to her desires for comfortable alternatives. “My parents didn’t give us a choice about walking or biking to school.  They wanted us to learn responsibility and independence – to become self sufficient.”


Jenna’s parents, Arnie and Corinna Neustaetter, carried on the tradition of walking and biking to school from their own childhood. Overcoming the obstacles of hills, distance and traffic, they shared the belief that “exposure to outdoor, physical challenges builds a child’s self-esteem and independence,” and reinforced that belief with the daily active commute.

The Neustaetters took action. They formed a neighborhood walking group when Jenna was in Kindergarten and took turns bringing kids to school.  The Neustaetters biked together on weekends, and often put Jenna in the lead to prove she knew how to handle herself.  They were reassured that Marin was generally safe, a bike friendly place with good bike education and infrastructure.  By 4th grade, they let go and put their trust into their child.

Jenna continues to bike to school even though the “rite of passage” of driving typically influences most Juniors and Seniors to drive. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of Marin Seniors drive to school, so Jenna clearly is in the minority.  “Biking to school feels more normal to me than driving. I love starting my day outside – yes Its cold, but it wakes me up and I honestly believe it sets me up for better learning.”  She adds, “I’m never in a bad mood when I arrive to school on my bike,” and attributes increased teen stress to worrying about arriving to school on time to fight for parking spots; it’s not a fun way to start the day.

“I pass parents biking to school with their kids, Jenna says. “We smile at each other as though we share a secret happiness.”


Daily Pedal to School – A Body And Mind Boost

by Laura Kelly

Imagine biking to elementary school daily with your children.  What?  Who can do that?  Is it possible in today’s busy parenting world?  Why would I?

Chris Brignetti and Sarah Winarske live in San Rafael with their two daughters and have made biking to school every day a family habit.  Ginger is in Kindergarten and Lucia in fourth grade at Vallecito Elementary in Terra Linda.  Every day Ginger and Lucia commute to school by biking a half mile with their parents. “Riding is better than sitting in the back seat of a car,” said Ginger.  “I see wet grass and people’s faces when I am riding my bike.  It feels open and free.”

Biking their route takes a shorter amount of time than driving due to traffic congestion. The family lives close to Terra Linda High School where traffic can be heavy in the early morning.  The decision not to drive was an opportunity for Chris and Sarah to teach their children that a bike is a more relaxing way to travel places and spend great family time.

“Being stuck in school traffic builds stress. Biking releases tension and starts the day in an upbeat way,” said Chris Brignetti. “This is our chance to make a lasting impression with our young children by teaching them the benefits of biking places. Riding releases endorphins, makes you feel good and is an opportunity to help our planet.”

The couple still feels the stress that most families go through trying to get out the door every morning. However, the difference is that pedaling to school nurtures the body and mind of their daughters before the start of the day.  “It’s a body, mind and spirit boost,” said Sarah Winarske.  “The elementary school years will be gone before we know it.  Biking with our young children is a memory that our daughters will fondly remember forever.”



White Hill Students Learn Through Bicycling

On Friday, May 6th, 270 White Hill seventh graders biked or walked to the Marin Museum of Bicycling in Fairfax for a full day of bicycle math, science, history, engineering, safety, and fun.  Fairfax Mayor Renee Goddard joined students, Safe Routes to Schools Instructors, White Hill teachers, and parent volunteers to cycle down Sir Francis Drake with the Fairfax police escorts.


The students learned about the history of bike engineering and innovation, and studied math by learning how bike gear ratios help propel bikes forward.  Two of the museum’s co-founders, Joe Breeze and Otis Guy, mountain bike pioneers and bicycle designer-builders, were on hand. Joe explained how bikes evolved and how the bicycle took society by storm in the 19th century—it was a Freedom Machine then and still is today. Joe also told firsthand stories of early off-road riding here in Marin County, showing the very bikes that launched the mountain bike era.

DSC09122xsOtis Guy showed the students a high-wheeler from the early 1880s. He explained how it worked, then climbed aboard it for a demo ride.  Safe Routes to Schools had an obstacle course for balance and navigating practice, and students enjoyed smoothies pedaled on our bike blender.   Fairfax Cyclery bike mechanics assessed and made gentle adjustments to student bikes and Sustainable Fairfax taught zero-waste habits for packing lunches.   This community endeavor will be a day that White Hill students will remember, where bikes and brains were celebrated.



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.”


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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

Safer Streets for Schools Throughout Marin


Based on the outstanding efforts of parent volunteers, team leaders, Task Force members, and staff at various jurisdictions, much has been done to increase green trips in Marin County, including the planning, design and construction of numerous infrastructure improvements. In fact, over $20 million in SR2S infrastructure projects have been constructed in the past 10 years. Some recent improvements include:

In Larkspur Doherty Drive got a makeover including wider bike lanes in addition to a multiuse path and sidewalk for access to Hall Middle School and Redwood High School. San Rafael completed Belle Avenue Pedestrian Improvements, adding new curb ramps and realigned crosswalks across Belle Avenue and San Rafael Drive. Fairfax completed its two-mile long School Bike Spine, with special green bicycle route markings and signs.

In Ross and San Anselmo, pedestrian refuge islands, curb ramps and signs and markings were added to Bolinas Avenue. Many recent bicycle facilities have been added in Mill Valley, including buffered bike lanes on Miller Avenue and sharrows on Sycamore Avenue. Corte Madera implemented pedestrian and bicycle improvements in the vicinity of the new Cove School. Novato constructed high-visibility crosswalks, curb ramps, and bikeway improvements near several schools.


The Transportation Authority of Marin received applications from nearly all jurisdictions in Marin County for Safe Pathways infrastructure funding. The requests totaled more than $350,000 for lower cost improvements such as Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons and solar-powered radar feedback sign installations. Larger projects such as pedestrian or bicycle gap closures, sidewalk widening, and crosswalk enhancements requested a total of $4,975,600. Many of these projects were developed from school walk audits, in which parents, school staff, and Public Works identify safety concerns.  The value of requests exceeds the available Safe Pathways funding budget, demonstrating the continuing need for infrastructure upgrades. The infrastructure planning will continue.  Behind-the-scenes work is underway to eliminate more barriers for walking and cycling. The school travel audits continue to focus on issues and ideas. Task Force meetings continue to bring light to new issues as well as prioritize them. As a result, solutions are being identified and developed, such as new pathways, striping, signs, sidewalks and bike routes, and funding continues to be sought.

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