Safe Routes Newsletter



Join in the Fun:

National Bike to School Day is Wednesday May 8th



• Tips to Start Biking to School

Strategies to Beat the Clock! 
Bike to School Hero 2019

Birdsong, dew, the hum of bicycle tires, and the buzz of young minds welcoming the day –– sound like an ideal morning? We get to live out this vision for the future on Wednesday, May 8th, when over 40 Marin County schools are slated to participate in National Bike to School Day.

Bike to School Day, which has been observed nationally since 2012, is a truly nationwide event. Last year over 3,000 communities officially participated, spanning all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Marin students who commute to school via bike (or scooter or walk) will receive special prizes, sign banners, be entered in raffles, or receive other special incentives. Students will participate in a fun day alongside their classmates and witness the difference they can make by pedaling to school.

In Marin, National Bike to School Day will coincide with the regularly scheduled Walk and Roll Wednesday’s program, which helps kids and parents make walking and riding to school a weekly habit. Parents are encouraged to check their children’s bicycles and helmets for fit and safety, ensuring there is air in the tires and that the brakes function when it’s time to hit the road. 


Spring is the ideal time to gear up for the joy of biking to school. Take advantage of warmer weather and longer days to get started.

  •  Set a goal and plan to bike at least one day per week:
    • Practice the route on the weekend.
    • Get ready the night before (prepare backpacks, helmets, bikes, locks, water-bottles).
    • Set alarm clocks to wake up early.
  • Seek solutions to overcome challenges:
    • Live too far?  Drive, park and ride part way to school. 
    • Have younger kids or too much to carry?  Consider getting an electric assist bike.
    • Don’t feel safe?  Ride with a group to increase visibility.  Drive to a quieter route with slower speeds, and fewer cars and intersections, and start from there.
  • Have fun and encourage others to join you.


Why do many parents drive?  One reason is that it’s often a miracle to get kids fed, dressed, and to school on time. Traffic congestion plus stressed out drivers  is a safety concern for pedestrians and bicyclists as queued vehicles block intersections and inhibit visibility.  Here are tips for reducing morning mayhem and rethinking your commute to school:

Set a Goal for a Healthy Transition to School: With a bit of planning and routine, parents can teach children habits for a healthy and pleasant transition to school, fueling their bodies with nutritious food and a bit of exercise to sustain a day of learning.  Even parents who typically drop children off on their way to work can take small actions to mitigate congestion, parking and walking a few extra steps to school to benefit all.

“I park and walk my kids to school; it’s faster, less chaotic and healthier for my kids than joining the drop off line.” A Hidden Valley Parent

Plan:  Determine how much time is needed in the morning and set alarm clocks 10 minutes earlier to allow for mishaps. Getting clothes, shoes, and backpacks ready the night before and establishing consistent bed and wake-up times is key to success.  Some little sleepyheads need a checklist of what needs to get done in the morning. Having the breakfast identified and table set the night before saves time. Removing TV, phones, and toys minimizes distractions. Engage your child in finding solutions to get out the door without nagging. For more tips, check out:

“It’s easier to bike my kids to school than to get them into and out of the car; it’s actually faster because they are more excited to go and we don’t get stuck in traffic.” A Manor Parent of three, ages 7, 4 and 2

Motivate:  On Walk and Roll Wednesdays, students receive small incentives for getting up early to take a green way to school, yet there is nothing more rewarding for a child than biking or walking hand in hand with loved ones and friends in the morning. This quality time together establishes happy memories to cherish forever. 


Nominate your Bike to School Hero in May.  May is the perfect time for students, whether experienced  or new, to gear up and show their pedal power. Feel free to nominate your favorite student who is dedicated to biking to school. A Bike to School Hero is someone who:

  • Gets up early to ride consistently
  • Motivates others to bike
  • Is eager to ride, either solo or as a passenger on a cargo bike
  • Has fun biking!

Award:  $50.00 Gift Certificate to a local store of choice.  Two students - one elementary and one middle school - will be chosen.  Nominations close on Friday, May 31st.



Cultivating Street Smart Kids

Always stop, look and listen before crossing the street!” loudly chirped 40 kindergarten students at a school wide assembly. The informative and humorous 45-minute presentation was created and led by two volunteer parents at Hidden Valley Elementary School, Erin Hill and Corbin Howes. Six children performed a short and entertaining skit on stage to reinforce the importance of practicing pedestrian safety skills. Principal Kristi Fish selected students who bike and walk to school on a regular basis to participate in the fun skit.  Erin and Corbin developed the assembly format which included the Principal, school crossing guard, all classroom grades and three law enforcement officials.

An important goal of the assembly was to teach kids to have the utmost respect for their crossing guard.  At the assembly, the Hidden Valley crossing guard was acknowledged and then presented with two Giants baseball tickets and Hawks spirit wear. “Our crossing guard (Brian Sousa) is an integral part of our community and brightens every morning,” said Erin. “He says hello to children by name and on hot weather days spritzes the kids with a spray bottle. Most importantly, he guides our children every day to safely across our busy intersection.”

Another clever part of the assembly was to have each classroom take turns standing and reciting an important safety rule.  “We wanted to find a fun way for the kids to remember the safety rules,” said Corbin. Children are more likely to remember safety tips by actively participating in our school wide assembly.  “Inviting local law enforcement officials to participate was like the cherry on top for the kids, said Corbin. “Children perceive them to be of celebrity status.”

What a Wonderful World: Sights and Sounds While Walking


Spring is in the air at last and there are more reasons to walk to school than just the good weather. Open your eyes and ears, and experience the beauty around you. This is a perfect opportunity for you and your child to learn about the flowers and birds as you walk to school. 

Along the roadside you are sure to see the bright orange state flower, the California Poppies, those lovely yellow Buttercups, and the delicate MilkmaidsLupine are those gorgeous purple and blue elongated flowers growing in spikes.  Wild onions (or three-cornered leek) are also in force recognized by the long green stems and pretty little white bell flowers.  They also make great soup.  Long-Beaked Storksbill  is a delicate five petal pinkish flower that makes the spiral seeds that get in kids' socks.   Scarlet Pimpernel  is blue here (despite the name).

Also open your ears as well as your eyes.  The American Robin has a sing-song that is quite recognizable as it hits a high and then low note and then back again.   Spotted Towhees are often confused with Robins only because they are also orange but when you look at them, they are quite different with their black cap and spotted wings. Their song sounds like their name: "Tow-wheeeeee." Some people think of it as sounding like a meow.    California Towhees, who are often seen on the ground, are a pretty creamy brown with a rapid repetitive song like a ball bouncing.  The distinctive thing about California  Towhees is the color under the tail. The kids call them "the bird that sat on a pumpkin pie."

You can’t miss the Acorn Woodpeckers (wake-up, wake-up or Ja-cob, Ja-cob), as they frolic about in large  extended families.    Oak Titmice are tiny grey jobbies and you may not see them but you’re sure to hear them with their bouncy call and tweets.   House Finches are singing in April and Red Tailed Hawks are always in the sky.

 Make a game of how many different birds and flowers you see on your way to school. Take a picture of the flowers and record the bird song.  Then when you get home, look them up and see how many you can identify.  Download the Northern California Wildflower app for flowers. Chirp! USA helps you identiry bird sounds. Also the free Merlin app (Cornell University) is great for tracking birds. Kids 2nd grade and up can use it.

Thanks to IJ columnist Wendy Dreskin for the suggestions and check out her Marin Hike column in the Lifestyles section for great places to hike.

Reading: Migrating birds just landed


Meet Tommy Breeze, New Safe Routes Instructor

From student to instructor, Tommy Breeze has come full circle with Safe Routes to Schools (SR2S).  Tommy was in Kindergarten at Manor Elementary when Safe Routes started in Marin County 19 years ago.  His earliest recollections were bike rodeos and prizes for biking to school, adding to the cherished memories of riding to school with his dad, Joe Breeze.  Tommy credits his father with the time investment made early, acknowledging the freedom, confidence, and independence he gained from cycling which he continues to enjoy.  He also thanks the SR2S rodeos for inspiring his friends to bike with him. 

Tommy is thrilled to be teaching bike and pedestrian safety classes to Marin students.  He says, “I admire children’s enthusiasm for learning a new skill and their willingness to have fun with cycling.  I feel honored to impart my knowledge.”  Reflecting back  on his own childhood, Tommy knows that students who bike to school arrive feeling energized and eager to learn.  He says his connection with nature was discovered through riding his bike, and believes that fostering a child’s love of riding cultivates their appreciation for the environment.  


Never Too Busy for Safety

If you think you are too busy, take a look at our volunteer of the month, Aracelia Mendoza from Olive Elementary in Novato. With four elementary-school children, she fills her days –and part of her nights-- with a care-giving job, part-time classes at the community college, and volunteer work.

But still, when administrators from Olive asked her if she would be Safe Routes to Schools' team leader, she did not hesitate for a second. “I do it because I want to contribute to the safety of the children. Safety is my main concern,” Aracelia said. “The more cars there are, the more dangerous it is for the kids. For this reason, I think walking school buses and park and walk are a great idea.”

Aracelia's goal is to become a preschool teacher when she finishes her studies, where she will continue working for the safety of little kids that choose green ways to go to school.


For the Sake of Education

In the United States, children who use their feet to get  to school navigate the streets evading traffic or  infrastructure obstacles. The pictures in this link offer some perspective about the great lengths young people in other countries are willing to take to attain their education. For millions, daily adventures on the way to class include balancing on a tight rope above a river, climbing unsecured ladders over steep mountains, or walking five hours on a one-foot-wide path.


Street Smarts Banners Appearing

The Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) is gearing up for an early May deployment of the popular Street Smarts transportation education program. The goal of the Street Smarts campaign is to promote safe driving, biking, and walking in Marin County. The program consists of pole banners, lawn signs, and education materials made available via web or newsletter. The pole banners are placed at key locations located by law enforcement, with messages targeting behaviors including high speeds, distracted driving, and bicycle and pedestrian safety.


West Marin Explores Safety Improvements

Speeding, crossing the street, and general path conditions are of great concern to residents of West Marin. Safe Routes to School is working with Shoreline Unified School District to identify potential improvements near West Marin Elementary School. A stakeholder meeting was held on January 14th to present possible remedies and get feedback from the community. In attendance were representatives from Safe Routes to School, Caltrans and the County of Marin. The representatives spoke to the members of the West Marin community highlighting the existing conditions and preliminary plans. Improvements along Highway 1 will be done in conjunction with Caltrans upcoming State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP).  On April 2nd at 6:30 Caltrans will hold another community meeting at the Dance Palace to present more details about the SHOPP program.  Thanks to Peggy Day and Madeline Hope for organizing the meeting and providing refreshments.