Safe Routes Newsletter

FALL 2018

Your Time is Valuable.

Invest it in "Park and Walk"

Photo by Peter Oppenheimer

After almost two decades of Safe Routes to Schools programs in Marin, the culture is shifting.  Parents now realize that driving to school is their last choice, not their first. Safe Routes to Schools encourages schools to prioritize walking and biking to school. For many parents who live far from schools or up our steep mountain roads, walking and biking from home is simply not an option. By choosing to park remotely and then walking the rest of the way, these families can still get all the benefits of walking to school.

Parking your car and walking with your child even a short distance to school helps prepare your student for the inevitable day that they wish to travel alone. Creating a self-reliant, responsible student is every parent’s ultimate goal, and investing the time early to practice and build safety skills is extremely worthwhile.  Additionally, you and your child will value the memories created together, hand-in-hand.

Establish a routine and build habits with younger children, grades K-2, by starting from a location just five minutes away.  Parks, libraries, closed businesses, and quiet streets can provide easy parking and safe routes to school. Parents may first need to ask permission to use private lots.  It is recommended that there is one parent for every three children, ages 4-6.  Children age 7-9 should have one adult per six children and can walk longer distances, time permitting.  Parents will ultimately know best when their student is safety-ready to travel alone or with peers.

You can add a measure of safety by forming Walking School Buses from the Park and Walk locations. There is safety in numbers, and it’s more enjoyable for both parents and kids to walk with a group. You can start by trying it out on Walk and Roll Wednesdays. Once you know the others in your group, take turns walking with the kids. Parents with very young children should always be present to supervise.

To choose a safe pathway to school, select a route along a quiet street with sidewalks, low traffic and slower-moving cars.  Choose a route that has minimal streets to cross and avoid multi-lane crossings. The best routes have a crossing guard, walk signals, and crosswalks.  Look for alternative routes that may provide shortcuts through neighborhoods and that will arrive at school away from traffic and school drop off zones. 

Why prioritize walking and biking?

  • Walking or biking, even partway, to school invigorates students and prepares them for a day of learning
  • Reducing traffic makes it safer for students arriving by bike or foot; prioritizing car drop offs and pickups may inadvertently encourage more families to drive, making it even more unsafe for walkers and bikers
  • Reducing cars on campus reduces pollution for developing lungs and brains
  • You avoid the stress of waiting in the car line
  • You get quality time with your children that simply can’t compare with the stress of driving

Once you get your routine going, you can start adding another day a week.  Be aware – you might start liking this so much that you decide that it’s more fun and less stressful to Park and Walk with your kids every day.    Every step you take with your child provides an opportunity to build their confidence, while instilling healthy habits to last a lifetime.          

For more on how to improve the arrival and dismissal at your school see the National Partnership Resource


Suggested Route Maps Help Find Best Way to School

TAM's Safe Routes to School program works with several schools each year to develop school route maps.  These maps can inform students and families about walking and bicycling routes to school and can also identify areas that may need to be addressed for potential implementation of measures such as curb ramps, improved crosswalks, sidewalk gap closures, and bicycle lanes.

 Two route maps are underway for the Ross Valley School District following mapping meetings that occurred over the summer. One map will serve students in the Town of Fairfax attending Manor Elementary School and White Hill Middle School. The other will serve San Anselmo students traveling to Brookside Elementary and Hidden Valley Elementary. Draft route maps for Mill Valley Middle School and Old Mill School have received feedback from parents and students, and revisions are being implemented.

Completed maps are available for Bel Air Elementary and Del Mar Middle schools in Tiburon. To find out more about routes maps for your school, contact


Venetia Valley Shuts Down Car Line

Principal Juan Rodriguez walks from Venetia Valley School to the Jury Parking Lot along with a group of students.

The beginning of the school year came with a surprise for most Venetia Valley parents: The car line is closed for business. Extensive remodeling at the school on top of the already congested traffic conditions on North San Pedro Road resulted in the schools decision to close the school parking lot for pick up and drop off.

 The idea was already in the works for a couple of years as they found a perfect remote drop off/pick up location at the Jury Parking Lot located across the street from the Civic Center. This spot is just a three-minute walk from the school. Only the parents of TK and kindergarten students are currently allowed to pull in the school parking lot.

School staff greet the children at their new drop off area in the morning, and from there, the students walk in small groups to campus. In the afternoon, teachers walk their classes to the Jury Parking Lot where parents await.  “There has been a lot of push back from some parents, but I am hoping that as people get used to the new arrangement, the situation will get increasingly better,” said Rodriguez.

The goal is to make this parking lot closure a permanent arrangement.


Free Range Children Learn Independence

The other day, a 70-something man returned home to Fairfax after a roundtrip, 50-mile ride to Sausalito. Lean and healthy, he’d been riding since he was seven years old.

When prompted to recall what urged him to ride as a child, his reply was simple. “Freedom! I’d see something off in the distance and I would go and explore it on my bike.”

Freedom!  It’s built into our destiny and doctrines, yet do we truly allow children today to thrive independently? According to educators and psychologists, children need freedom to think on their own, to build their self-confidence and long-term resiliency.  Yet parents are in a bind; they lament how times have changed eroding their child’s autonomy, but feel they are under society’s pressures of being zealously protective, criticized for being neglectful when allowing their children to roam.

The consequence? Busy working parents chauffeuring their kids everywhere; increased traffic congestion and stress.

Fortunately, states are mitigating this trend.  Utah is the first in the country to enact a “Free Range Parenting” law to encourage parents to use their own best sense for determining their child’s readiness to walk and bike without adult supervision; they won’t be considered negligent by authorities when they do.

Marin parents support student growth through walking and biking independence.  According to Gwen Froh, SR2S Program Director, “Our parents play a critical role in helping children practice safe walking and biking habits while making it fun.  It takes time, yet parents know that the investment is worth the effort for developing healthy children able to think and act responsibly.”  Fall is a good time to do this; long days and cool weather allow for biking and strolling with children in the evening hours.

You can also learn how to empower your children’s independence through Kidpower

Raising Confident Independent Children

Utah's Free Range Parenting Law



Walking to School - Cools Our Planet

On Tuesday night before bed, a parent gently tucks their child in and says to them: “I will wake you twenty minutes early in the morning so we can walk to school together. It’s Walk & Roll Wednesday tomorrow at your school.  Goodnight.”

“It’s the best way to start the day,” says Kristi Fish, Principal at Hidden Valley Elementary School in San Anselmo. “The fresh air, friendly faces, building community and bodies moving is why we love our Walk & Roll Wednesdays program and host a welcome table every week.”

Safe Routes to Schools has a record number of elementary schools that are actively engaged in our Walk & Roll Wednesdays program this September. Thirty-nine schools in Marin County are hosting morning welcome tables and publicizing the program in their school newsletters, principal announcements, mobile group texts, e-mail communications, social media platforms and websites. The primary goal of the program is to reduce car drop-off traffic and improve air quality near campus every Wednesday.

Safe Routes to Schools works directly with schools to customize and heavily publicize the program. Parent volunteer leaders are supplied with fun tabling incentives, banners and bright yellow Walk & Roll Wednesdays posters. The posters are in hundreds of classrooms this fall with a new lead that reads: “Cool Our Planet”, a reference to the benefits of walking and biking to reduce climate change.

Law enforcement officials, teachers and principals often assist volunteer parent leaders at monthly and/or weekly welcome tables. Some elementary schools invite their green teams to become involved by having them stand near car drop-off areas holding a Walk & Roll Wednesday banner to politely remind parents to partake.

“It’s great to see so many kids and families having fun together,” said Allison Hughes Nygarrd, the parent volunteer leader at Rancho Elementary in Novato. “Our principal and several teachers meet students and families a couple blocks away on the first Wednesday of every month to form a walking school bus in celebration of Walk & Roll Wednesdays. Thanks to the support and encouragement of this program, we have high levels of Rancho kids really excited about walking and biking to school.”

Once kids start to use their feet to get to school, they prefer it to riding in a car. “We are grateful to our volunteer parent leaders who make Walk & Roll Wednesday a sustainable program in Marin County,” said Laura Kelly, Marketing and Outreach Manager. “The credit goes all to them for encouraging kids at an early age to make green travel a lifelong habit.”

For more information about our Walk & Roll Wednesdays program, please contact Laura Kelly at (415) 272-6939 or at


Marin Crossing Guard Numbers Could Increase with Measure AA

Last year, the Transportation of Marin (TAM) was faced with the bitter prospect of having to reduce the number of crossing guards from its program as grant money was running out.  At the last minute, the TAM board decided to fund an additional 21 guards through December.  These guards, plus others, could remain if  the transportation sales tax that funds the guards is renewed by voters through Measure AA in November.

Recently the IJ featured one of Corte Madera’s crossing guards:

Overwhelming forces converge on Doherty Drive every weekday around 8 a.m. — frenzied commuters, teenage drivers, buses, bikes and pedestrians all fight the glaring morning sunshine for a spot on one of Larkspur’s busiest streets. These factors make the crossing-guard positions near Hall Middle School two of the city’s most challenging jobs.

“I was in the stock-and-bond business for years and managed a large organization,” says Ed Ripley, the crossing guard at the Rose Lane intersection.  “That was child’s play compared to working this intersection.”

The 10-year veteran has worked many of Marin’s crosswalks and says this is one of the county’s most active locations. During the first week of school alone, Ripley had to shout at a Jaguar driver who never slowed from what he estimated was 65 mph to anywhere near the 25 mph posted limit.

“Marin is a great place and all, but there are a lot of wealthy people here who sometimes don’t worry about the laws,” says Ripley, a 60-year resident of the county whose own kids attended nearby Redwood High School years ago.  “Too often drivers come speeding through here and it is very dangerous for the children.”

As construction tangles the Bon Air Bridge-Marin General zone for the foreseeable future, more commuters have joined the teenagers and parents using Doherty to get to their morning destinations.

Guardian of the Larkspur Plaza intersection, Sara Khodadadeh, says drivers make the crossing guard’s job more difficult when they pay attention to the car in front of them instead of the changing traffic light.

“But the kids are so nice. They are why I’ve been doing this for three years,” says  Khodadadeh. “They give me good energy every morning.”

Learn More about Measure AA

Funds for Transportation Threatened with Prop 6

A multi-purpose pathway planned along 2nd street would require state funding

Voters across California this November will consider Proposition 6, which would cut taxes that were raised as part of a historic transportation financing package passed last year by the State Legislature. If approved by voters, Prop. 6 would slash funding for Safe Routes to Schools improvements across the state, and cut nearly in half the money available to cities and counties for local street and road repairs.

 In the Bay Area alone, Prop. 6 would shrink funding through the state Active Transportation Program — used to finance Safe Routes to Schools projects and educational programs, as well as safety improvements such as dedicated bike lanes, bike parking facilities and pedestrian countdown signals — by about $20 million each year. For local streets and roads, Prop. 6 would strip Bay Area cities’ and counties’ budgets by more than $200 million a year. These are funds used not just to fill potholes but to resurface and restripe roadways; and to install and improve sidewalks, curbs, gutters, storm drains, traffic signals and disabled-access ramps. There is more to Prop. 6 than just the gas tax; safety is on the ballot, too.


Electric Cargo Bikes Transforms Family Biking

Liz Canning always used a bike as her first choice for transportation until she had twins.  Forced to return to driving a car she discovered another solutions: electric cargo bikes.  “We live atop a long, very steep hill in Fairfax; eventually that double bike trailer was too much for me to pull. I found myself wondering, “How can we avoid getting back in the car?” The first step was switching to a bakfiets-style ShuttleBug built by Portland’s Joe Bike, but the clincher was adding an electric-assist hub motor to the front wheel. It’s just an all-around blast and true car-replacement!”

Liz was so excited about her discovery that she decided to share it with the world.  For the past four years she’s been working on Motherload, a crowdsourced documentary on the cargo bike movement. “I’ve been in contact with hundreds of family cyclists! I never cease to be amazed at the transformative power of riding as a family. People who give it a real try almost always fall in love with the experience. And, an incredible number of these parents become hardcore family bike evangelicals!”

Even if you are not a hard core bicyclist like Liz, electric cargo bikes can change your whole perspective.  Liz says, just give it a try.  “So, first piece of advice: TRY IT. Go on lots of test rides on bikes that are set up for your family. Borrow or rent one for a few days. Sample electric-assist – if you aspire to ride with cargo every day, it is worth the money and the extra weight, hands down.”

Cargo bikes can also address the concern that parents have with letting their younger children ride on their own.  “Riding with kids on their own bikes is stressful in some places and with some kids, so I’m a fan of ‘whatever works.’

“This year, starting kindergarten and adjusting to the school run, I was quite happy to have the kids on my own bike. Next year, with our new setup, I hope they will ride their own bikes a lot, but I still appreciate having the option to carry them the whole way in a pinch, and/ or to carry their stuff. I know families who still use trailers for first graders when they are reluctant to ride and others who carry teenagers on longtails because it’s simple, quick, and safe.

“My point is: e-assist or no, longtail or long john, together or separate – just try a lot of different things until you find what works for your family. Then expect it to change! That’s parenting on two wheels for you.”

Read the full interview with Liz Canning 

Check out Cargo Bikes at the New Wheel in Larkspur