Safe Routes Newsletter

SPRING 2021

Safe Routes BACK to Schools!

Vaccinated and Ready for On-Site, Outdoor Classes!



It’s an exciting time for school communities! As students return full-time to in-person instruction, Safe Routes to Schools can help address an important consideration - student’s safety for walking and biking to and from schools.

 

 

After a long year, the Safe Routes to Schools trained instructors are eager to join Marin teachers going back to schools and seeing the students for in-person classes taught outside with Covid protocols.  Safe Routes staff were vaccinated along with school teachers, staff and coaches in March.   

This past Covid year, many schools took advantage of Safe Routes virtual pedestrian and bicycle classes replacing those typically taught in person at schools annually. Some schools scheduled Pedal Playgrounds, affording children a chance to practice their cycling maneuvers on their school’s blacktop. Others promoted Bike Week safety contests, popular especially with middle school students, and Chalk N Walk encouragement and safety messaging along popular routes to schools. 

Starting mid-April, Safe Routes to Schools Instructors are permitted on school campuses to teach pedestrian and bicycle education for students’ safety as they walk and roll to and from schools.  To prevent a lapse in the current grades’ instruction, we strongly recommend scheduling classes before the end of the school year.  Active transportation education also increases parents’ confidence in allowing their child(ren) to walk and roll to school, thereby further reducing traffic and increasing safety on our streets .  Please contact Peggy@marinbike.org to schedule classes.

 



The Way to Go

 


An ideal way to keep all children safe is to reduce traffic on the roads, particularly around schools. Children are encouraged to walk and roll to school if they live one mile or less, bike if less than two miles, and park and walk part way if they live greater than two miles away.  Every bit helps.

The recorded classes that were made available during lock down will help you review safety precautions with your children. For parents seeking best tips on teaching their child(ren) to ride a bike to school, check out Savvy Family Cycling.

Of course, the best way to ensure student safety is to practice your route to school on the weekends.

For anyone who must drive, please remember these important safety tips: allow extra time for travel; go slow and scan for children, especially during morning and afternoon commute times; stay alert - eyes up and focus on the drive; put your phone away - mobile devices can take a back seat to safety.

 



Children Show Off Their Active Transportation in Pictures



Families from Pickleweed Pre-K in San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood joined many others from Bahia Vista, Laurel Dell, Lynwood, and Venetia Valley in submitting dozens of pictures of their children biking, scooting, and walking to diverse locations around their neighborhoods.

“The Hispanic community, especially in San Rafael, responded enthusiastically to this particular activity,” says Monica Leifer, Safe Routes to Schools’ Bilingual Coordinator.

Like other activities designed by Safe Routes, this one follows the Health Department’s guidelines for social distancing. Students are encouraged to get out of their homes and keep moving with their parents and siblings. Families received their contest cards and rules either by backpack mail or electronically, and responded by text or Email. When submitting the pictures, the participants were entered into a raffle drawing for active toys such as pogo sticks, frisbees, and different kinds of balls.

Many participants also watched a video either in Spanish or English about the benefits of drinking water, provided in partnership with Marin Health and Human Services’ campaign, “Rethink your Drink.”  Children who watched the video and answered a question about it were entered a raffle drawing for a $10 gift card.



Helmets for Underserved Families


Many families participated in the spring Walk and Roll to Anywhere Challenge, taking photos of their children and submitting them for a chance to win prizes. Though there were tons of smiling eyes peeking out from above their masks, most students were without helmets. 

Safe Routes contacted schools about providing helmets to families who cannot afford them most of whom qualify for free and reduced-proce lunches.  Through our school partnership, Safe Routes will give 50 helmets to the students who participated in the Challenge.

Safe Routes recommends that people of all ages wear helmets.  Not only will you protect your own brain, you’ll set an example for the younger kids that are watching you.


 

Children’s Exercise Turns Into Pandemic Casualty


Have you noticed your child’s waistline inching up? Is his or her face glued to a tablet screen all day? If that’s the case, you are not alone.

Parents are talking about it: “With online school, my son gained weight. We are still spending a lot of time at home instead of going to the park because I am afraid of getting infected,” says Marisela Hernandez-Tzul, mom to a 5th grader at Bahia Vista.

Safe Routes to Schools has been pushing for more physical activity during remote learning and is now collaborating with local communities for a safe return to class in April.

“We created multiple activities, such as monthly contests, slow streets, and chalked pedal playgrounds. We have also put special effort into our Latino and African American communities, since their children are at greater risk,” says Safe Routes to Schools’ Program Director, Gwen Froh.

Two studies support the notion that children have stopped exercising during the pandemic.

Research in Canada, published by the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, revealed that only 4.8% of 5-11 year olds and 0.6% of 12-17 year olds have been exercising enough during the outbreak. The researchers concluded that kids were spending less time outside, had more leisure screen time, and more sleep.  Another study from Dr. Genevieve Dunton, Professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California, confirmed these findings.  Her team examined the level of activity in children 5 - 13 and saw similar patterns, especially among the older ones.

“Many moms complained to me that their kids didn’t have anything to do,” says Jazmin Babendir, family liaison at Lynwood Elementary. “Some parents are forced to leave them with caretakers or alone for many hours to go to work. During that time, the children just sit in front of a computer or watch TV… and many kids eat out of boredom.” She noticed that many students, especially in the later grades, are coming back to in-person learning with some visible extra pounds.

Dr. Dunton thinks that school re-openings will offer impetus for exercise. “There will be tremendous benefit to children...in terms of opportunities for physical activity through walking or biking to and from schools. The lack of active commuting during the pandemic most likely resulted in 10-30 minute per day of lost physical activity.” She considers that ideally children should exercise for 60 minutes a day.

What else can parents do? Safe Routes asks families to keep participating in its monthly activities. Dr. Dunton from USC encourages the purchase of outdoor play equipment such as rings, swings and balls. The Canadian scholars recommend parents’ involvement in their kids' exercise.