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Marin’s Youth Shine at Leadership Conference

It was a fabulous day at the sold out Youth for the Environment and Sustainability (YES) Conference at the Lawrence Hall of Science on January 30th. Over 300 Bay Area middle and high school students gave up their Saturday to learn more about what teens are doing to mitigate climate change.

Middle schools in Marin County are reaching or exceeding 50% of the school population using active transportation – walking and rolling to school. Students from Kent, Miller Creek, and Mill Valley Middle schools were selected to share their experience to empower action and to show what a “tipping point” looks like at schools where green transportation is the norm through sustained Safe Routes to Schools programs and events.

Santy Hernandez Maldonado from Miller Creek explained that her school has 75% green trips due to a popular bus service, yet students are encouraged to walk and bike for health benefits. Miller Creek created the 50% Challenge and a school-wide pledge campaign to increase active transportation habits.

Anna Silverman told how Kent Middle School’s Eco Action Club creates theme days to promote green modes of transportation. Their prizes for “Go Green” days coincide with a holiday or festive event at their school such as pie for Pi Day (March 14), chocolate hearts for Have a Heart Day (Valentines Day), and Do-Nut Drive and Hot Walk-o-late Days.  Kent club students promote action with social fun, and their events are hugely popular.

Theo Koffman and Kara Kneafsey spoke of how Safe Routes started at Mill Valley Middle School when they were just two years old.  They said they are proud to be a part of the legacy to promote green modes of transportation through their Student Leadership Council, which serves over 600 cups of hot chocolate on an event day.  The majority of students at their school travel green and the bike racks are overflowing well beyond capacity. The culture is embedded; hundreds of students walk and roll to school each day, and the minority commute in cars.

Our Marin teens felt inspired to learn that they are part of a much bigger community of young people, from all over the Bay Area, who are passionate about creating healthier communities and reduce climate change.

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.

Safe Routes Instructor James Sievert Teaching Traffic Safety

Drive Alert – Save a Life

by James Sievert, Safe Routes Instructor

Here at Safe Routes to Schools, we hear the collective experience of families walking and biking throughout the County. From crosswalks in Sausalito to bike routes in Novato, addressing the issues in your community is central to our effort. We hear the stories and share the successes and failures as our own.

Two recent incidents illustrate how responsible drivers make or break our safe streets.

Some weeks ago in Tam Valley, a driver reported avoiding a collision with a student biking on the wrong side of the street through an intersection. While we wish all road users behaved perfectly, kids are prone to mistakes. This potential collision was avoided by vigilant driving. Unfortunately a recent collision along Butterfield Road in San Anselmo shows the need for responsible drivers. Witnesses reported a distracted driver swerved into a student in the bike lane and fled. Thankfully the student suffered no major injuries and is back on his bike. We know that walking and biking is still healthier despite a risk of injury, but these stories show the need for cautious and attentive drivers.

In recent years we have included an equal emphasis on the driver’s responsibility in our curriculum.  For example, when we teach the rules of the road to young bikers we always cover basic mistakes such as wrong-way riding, but now we include issues such as speeding, which is a common violation for drivers. While we don’t expect any of our young students to be behind the wheel for years to come, future drivers will start with a better understanding of their responsibility.

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For youth that are driving or nearly driving, our Teens Go Green program is partnering with Heads Up and Impact Teen Drivers (ITD), a national non-profit founded by the national Safety Council, California Teachers Association and CHP.   The first Parent-Teen Safe Driving Workshop, Dec. 1st 6-7:30pm, Drake High School Community Room is free to teens 14+ and parents.  This workshop explains graduated driver licensing laws, and includes parents as critical role models.  Because evidence demonstrates that graphic and gory messaging does not change long-term attitudes and behaviors, ITD uses engaging tools, video, real life scenarios and interactive discussion to empower good decision making by drivers as well as passengers. * (for more information, see attached flyer)

Over the past five years, I have had the pleasure of providing the vast majority of traffic safety instruction for youth in Marin. Together we practice crossing the street, cover the basic rules of the road, and demonstrate the need for personal responsibility for collective safety on our streets. Knowing that there is no replacing the need for responsible drivers, I’m pleased that Safe Routes has these new initiatives to help address the problem.

*Heads Up, is a partnership of San Anselmo Public Library, Drake High School, Safe Routes to School, Central Marin Police, Ross Valley Healthy Communities Collaborative and Impact Teen Drivers, a national non-profit founded by the National Safety Council, California Teachers Association and CHP. The program highlights distracted driving as a rising safety epidemic in our communities, and one that is 100% preventable. Heads Up brings workshops and presentations to high schools, middle schools and community organizations. A highlight will be a community presentation this coming spring from author and New York Times reporter Matt Richtel, who received a Pulitzer Prize for his series on distracted driving, and wrote the acclaimed non-fiction book A Deadly Wandering.

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Neighbors and parents audit safety issues on McAllister in Kentfield

Acting Locally for Safety

Neighborhood Safety Committees

A group of parents and neighbors hovered together observing the drop off on McAllister Avenue in Kentfield. Students from Kent Middle School and Bacich Elementary School were dodging cars to get to their respective schools. Fed up with the frightening situation on McAllister, a major thoroughfare for students going to both schools, parents and neighbors were adamant that the kids need a safe place to walk and bike to school and took action.

With the help of Supervisor Katie Rice’s office they are finally seeing some real solutions.   Rice helped the neighbors to form a Neighborhood Safety Committee and brought the county public works, CHP, Sheriff, and Safe Routes to Schools to the table. The County and Safe Routes engineering team worked together to develop recommendations and incremental changes that ultimately would create a much safer route along this well traveled corridor. Now this committee is clamoring for funding for implementation.

This is the third Neighborhood Safety Committee that has been organized by Rice. One in Sleepy Hollow has developed an outreach and education campaign as well as seeing some much needed signage improvements in their neighborhood. Oak Manor in Fairfax is also developing outreach materials and is looking forward to getting a speed feedback sign on the downhill direction to caution drivers to slow down.

In San Rafael, Supervisor Connolly’s office is working with Safe Routes to Schools to help the Terra Linda neighbors address the congestion caused by multiple schools and Kaiser in a small six block area. They are developing some creative outreach approaches while the City of San Rafael looks at some of the intersections and crossing guard needs.

Another committee is forming in the Canal through Supervisor Kinsey’s office. These neighborhood committees are an offshoot of the SR2S Task Forces. The Task Forces work on a district level to identify and address safety issues for all the schools. These committees are under the direction of the County Supervisors’ aides and invite a larger audience to participate, especially neighborhood associations; they meet more frequently over a short period of time to develop neighborhood specific strategies at a grassroots level.

Support from our County Supervisors forwards the SR2S Task Force’s goal to prioritize safety concerns which require infrastructure changes and implementation of crossing guards.  Through this collaboration, parents can proactively seek changes, which enable students to continue their walking and biking independence, rather than reverting back to reliance on cars.

Too often, neighbors are pitted against interest groups and they all demand action from government. In these committees, all the stakeholders are working together. They share a common goal – safety for the kids, for seniors, for pedestrian and bicyclists and, yes for motorists too. As more and more students and adults alike are choosing walking and biking for their transportation needs, the importance of conscious and alert behavior on the part of all users becomes more crucial. These Neighborhood Safety Committees are an important step in achieving that goal through grassroots education and essential infrastructure improvements. For more information contact Wendi Kallins Wkallins@igc.org

 

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Summertime and the Biking is Easy

Summer is almost here and when school is out it will be a perfect time to hone your biking skills with your family.  Marin offers multiple opportunities for family biking adventures on or off road.  There are unique pathways through towns, mountain bike rides for beginners, and even San Francisco adventures which will engage kids of all abilities

Safe Routes to Schools teaches basic skills of riding in 4th and 6th grade.  Those skills should be practiced with parents or professional cycling groups to  ensure your child is ready to ride to school when he or she reaches the appropriate age.  Once the child has mastered balance and control, she or he needs to learn to ride on the street and learn the traffic rules.  Practice with your child on side streets and designated bike routes which often have modern improvements to make cycling easier.  You my obtain a Marin bike route map from MCBC at www.marinbike.org or at local bike shops.

Additionally, talk with your child about cars and how to be alert to their backing out of driveways and opening their car doors.  To enhance your teaching knowledge of rules of the road and street safety, please strongly consider attending a Basic Street Skills Class in which you will learn best practices for riding visibly and predictably, taking lanes and turning, signaling, avoiding obstacles in the street, and the laws as they apply to cyclists.

Bike Camps

If you want your child to get better riding skills there are three mountain bike camps in Fairfax and one bike camp in Tiburon

The Fairfax Cycling Camp offers camps through June and July and the beginning of August for riders aged 8 and up.  They gather Monday through Friday in the morning for a fun day on wheels, covering 8-16 miles, while learning safety, skills, & maintenance.  They will also offer a special camp for girls.  http://www.fairfaxcyclingcamp.com/

Otis Guy Mountain Bike Camp is run by Mountain Bike legend Otis Guy.  Their goal is for campers to have fun and come away with the skills and knowledge to not only increase their abilities but also to be able to go on some great bike rides out of Fairfax. http://www.otisguymountainbikecamp.com/

Bike Adventures Marin founder Laura Childres offers biking classes for ages 7 and up on a weekly basis 8:30-3:30 through the summer.  Rides leave from the Java Hut in Fairfax http://www.bikeadventuresmarin.com/

In Tiburon, Wheel Escape is going to be running a Family Library Run.  This is for the whole family so parents pump up your tires too.  It goes from Blackie’s Pasture to Tiburon Library (downtown) every Thursday afternoon starting July 2- August 6. They’ll meet at Blackie’s @4:30 and return at 6. Call 415-729-4529 for program and event info.

Here are some suggestions for rides off road:

Samuel P. Taylor- Cross Marin Trail

This is a lovely easy ride along the old railroad grade through Samuel P. Taylor Park that goes along the creek.  Take Sir Frances Drake past Lagunitas.  There are three options for starting your ride.  For those with sturdy tires, go to the Salmon view area on the left at Shafter Bridge (green bridge).  Cross the street carefully to the Inkwells and start your ride – the first part is dirt so you’ll need sturdy tires but not necessarily a mountain bike.  You can drive further to the park entrance, pay the entrance fee and start on the paved portion of the path.   You can also start your ride at Platform Bridge road which is the other end of the park.  Turn right on Platform Bridge road and the bike path will be immediately on your left.  The paved portion is 2.5 miles and the dirt is another 2.5 miles. Also park on SFD at Devils Gulch turnout.  Ride .25 mi west on SFD and cross the bridge on left to get to the paved part of the trail.  There is no more free parking along SFD.  

The Cal Park Tunnel

Did you know there is a bicycle tunnel next to the SMART train that will take you from San Rafael to Larkspur Landing?  Park on a street near Office Depot on Anderson in San Rafael. Cross the street. Ride the path thru the SMART train tunnel. It’s 1.5 mile one way.  You will come out at the Larkspur Landing Theater.  Go on the weekend and enjoy the Farmer’s Market and the Food Trucks.

Corte Madera Creek

This is another railroad grade that goes along the open creek and wetlands in Kentfield.  There are lots of bird watching opportunities and you can take a spur off to the Hal Brown Park Playground in ????.  Start at Kent Middle School, or if you want a little longer ride, park at the Ross Post Office and take the back trails to Kentfield, go through the college and cross College Ave to the rest of the pathway.  You can even extend your ride to Larkspur Ferry by taking South Eliseo Road.   The total ride is 7 miles roundtrip to the ferry building.

Mill Valley Bike Path

This is a popular bike and pedestrian path so make sure your child understands how to both share the path and to watch for the faster riders.  It goes along the wetlands and you can take it all the way to downtown Sausalito for a snack or lunch.  Park at the Mill Valley Recreation Center.   4 miles round trip.

Tiburon Bike Path

The Tiburon Bike path provides a lovely ride to downtown Tiburon with spectacular views of the Bay.  Start at Blackie’s Pasture and ride along the bike path all the way into Tiburon. Some street riding in downtown Tiburon is required. Enjoy the view from the benches in the grassy area in town.  This ride is 8 miles round trip.

Angel Island

You can drive to the Ferry or take the Tiburon bike path from Blackie’s Pasture, and then take the ferry over to Angel Island. The loop around Angel Island is approximately 5 miles with a couple of steep hills (but you can always walk and talk over them). This ride can be especially fun on Opening Day on the Bay, Blue Angels day or Civil War day.  The views are great, but the history makes it even more memorable. Historical buildings line the road and make this a ride that could keep your family interested all day.  Special tip:  bring bike locks so you can park your bike and have a picnic or explore the area.

Puerto Suelo Hill/Lincoln Bike Path to Marin Civic Center

This is a tricky one to find.  The entrance is at the corner of 5th and Heatherton.  It can be steep so it’s a great opportunity to practice hill climbing in a safe environment.  It ends at North San Pedro Road.  Getting to the Civic Center from there is tricky as you have to cross a freeway off ramp so it’s best to walk your bikes at that juncture.  You can ride to the Farmers Market on Sundays or the County Fair over July 4th weekend.  There is valet bike parking at the fair.  6 miles round trip.

Mountain Bike Rides

Rush Creek Open Space, Novato

This is a lovely, almost flat dirt fire road narrowing to near single track in some places that goes around the wetlands.  Great birds and views.  Take 101 North. Exit San Marin/Atherton. Right turn. Go 300 feet, left turn to Gnoss Field, park just past Park n’ Ride.  6 miles round trip.

Phoenix Lake

The classic mountain bike ride.  You can take the easy lower trails or try some hill climbing to get the fabulous views.  Parking is scarce at Phoenix Lake so you might want to park along Lagunitas Road and ride in.  From the lake you can to up to Five Corners and then there are multiple loop opportunities.  Download an open space map and see your choices.

 San Francisco Rides:

Golden Gate Park, SF

Sundays they close the road in the center of the park.  Park outside the park or west of Park Presidio.   Ride to Academy of Science, DeYoung, Japanese Tea Garden, Conservatory of Flowers, or Children’s Playground. Loops run from 2-5 miles.

 Golden Gate Bridge

For the really adventurous.  Park at last Marin exit–big lot. Ride the bridge to SF. Ride down to the Marina or to Ft. Mason.  There is some street riding through the Presidio, then long. Scenic, flat bike path along Chrissy Fields. Lots of bike and pedestrians traffic on bridge so go slow and yield to pedestrians.

Crissy Field, SF

Extend your bridge ride or drive over the bridge and park at the Palace of Fine Arts and ride to Fort Point. There is a Warming Hut for snacks.   Ft. Point is free, has a museum and lots of real cannons. 5 miles round trip.

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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.

$350,000
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
The Amazing Transit Race Poster

Teens Discover Independence in the Amazing Transit Race

“It’s fun because you feel independent; you don’t have to rely upon your parents to take you places – it’s your own thing – it’s pretty cool.”

Students leave for the Amazing Transit Race

Students leave for the Amazing Transit Race

A Terra Linda High School student expressed the essence of teen motivation – independence – at the Amazing Transit Race sponsored by Marin Transit last December.  Fostering autonomy and self-reliance is an important step for parents to nurture in their teenage.  Giving teens the opportunity to problem solve and learn adult skills, builds confidence and promotes self-esteem as teens branch out into the wider world.

Last fall, Terra Linda High School students partnered with Safe Routes to Schools to create The Amazing Transit Race – a race which was hugely popular because it taught skills for independence while being a socially engaging and fun.  The goal of the race was to expose students to the ease with which they could ride the bus throughout Marin County.  According to another student, “It’s [riding the bus] a lot easier than most people think it is.”  Sometimes, you just need to provide the first step for teens to try something new in order to encourage future behavior.  The race afforded this opportunity for students to learn how to be self-sufficient with their local bus system –  a skill which is transferable when they might travel to other cities and be able to travel without a car.

MSEL students with Marin Transit webThe Amazing Transit Race was designed by students from Marin School of Environmental Studies (MSEL) which resides at Terra Linda High School.  The race was like a scavenger hunt with photos.  Students were given a map with various points of interest marked on the map and were told to take a team photo of their group at the designated locations spread throughout the county.  Students traveled from Northgate Mall which hosted the race, to Novato, San Rafael, San Anselmo and Fairfax, and finished back at Northgate Mall where our student leaders counted the points for each team and determined the winners.  The team which came in first place won a GoPro Camera for each of the four students.

“We learned a lot about the bus system.” said a member of the winning team.  “I’ll definitely be getting a bus pass on my school ID next year, save on gas, meet a lot of people. We met some interesting people on the bus.  It’s a lot easier than most people think.  I heard a lot of people say they’d take the bus now that they knew how easy it was.”

About Marin Transit

Marin Transit provides affordable and environmentally friendly options for travel throughout Marin County.  Students under 18 years of age pay just $1.00 per trip which includes getting a transfer pass to take multiple busses going in one direction for up to four hours. Students can also purchase Clipper Cards and Youth Passes with stored values for multiple trips.  Since 62% of all carbon emissions in the Bay Area is due to transportation, this is compelling reason for more people to take public transportation.

Last year, Marin Transit increased its ridership and provided additional services, while keeping expenses in control.  The Marin IJ reported Supervisor, Katie Rice saying, the agency had “a long list of accomplishments large and small” which included expanded Shuttle service to Muir Woods, increased transit rides for rural residents, seniors and the disabled, purchasing 11 hybrid buses and 16 paratransit vehicles, and engineered bus stop improvement projects. (Johnson, Marin IJ, 1/26/15; http://www.marinij.com/general-news/20150126/marin-transit-district-posts-record-ridership)  Marin Transit also provides a West Marin stagecoach to Point Reyes and service from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach.  It subcontracts with other agencies to provide service to many Marin schools and the Marin Airporter, Golden Gate Transit, and Whistle Stop Wheels which serves the elderly.  As ridership increases and as public transportation becomes more utilized in our county, we can look forward to a further increase in service by a public agency

Safer Streets for Schools Throughout Marin

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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.

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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.

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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 laura@marinbike.org