Safe Routes Newsletter

WINTER 2018–2019

"Roll" Model Principals Highlight International Walk to School Day


Principals make the best “roll” models for fledgling bikers and walkers. This October more than 50 schools participated in International Walk & Roll to School Day (iWalk) 2018 in Marin County.  These were among the 5,613 registered events around the nation.  Jason Richardson, Principal at Glenwood Elementary School, was one of many school leaders who decided to take to the streets and lead his school community by riding a scooter.

“It’s a big deal to bright-eyed school children when your Principal meets you on the street en route to campus,” said Ashley Greene, Safe Routes parent volunteer leader at Glenwood. “Principal participation raises the event level of pride, fun and excitement.”

Students were instructed to meet the Principal at  a well-publicized meeting location in advance of the event.  Richardson led bikers and kids on scooters, as well as students that ran to school on the sidewalk next to him. Some students ran the entire way next to Principal Richardson. “This was the first year that Glenwood outreached to the San Rafael Police Department to be involved in iWalk,” said Greene. “The fire department greeted students upon arrival to campus. It was a magical morning for kids.” 

Every year, the Safe Routes to School program encourages schools to coordinate iWalk parent welcome tables, police and fire truck escorts, and Principal leadership. 

See photos of this year’s iWalk 2018 iWalk Slide Show


#1 New Years' Resolution: Create Happy and Healthy Habits for Life

“I can’t walk to school. My dad drops me off on his way to work,” said Meghan, a second grader, after her Safe Routes to School pedestrian safety class.  With low unemployment throughout Marin, this is a common statement heard from our students these days.  It is one of the many reasons families give for driving their children to school

Why It Matters: The morning commute to school can  influence the way students experience the rest of their day.  Even a short, brisk walk or bike ride in the morning invigorates children and prepares them for the social and academic rigors of school.  Whether walking hand in hand with a parent or skipping with friends, the early morning bonding can help children feel nurtured and happy as they transition into a more structured environment. 

Experts say safer and happier kids start with parents who establish predictable, consistent, and healthy routines with their child early on.   As kids get older, parents who have walked or biked regularly with their student have more confidence in their student’s ability to navigate the streets independently and responsibly.  Studies indicate that regular walking elevates moods; making mobility a  habit now can help teens  combat anxiety and depression in the future.

Simple Steps: Behavioral scientists suggest  starting small with developing new habits. Instead of walking or biking far distances from home once a week, park your car a few blocks from school and walk or roll from there every day.  Set alarm clocks 15 minutes early and get backpacks and clothes ready the night before.  Studies show it takes 30 days to establish a new habit, so repetition is important.  Making  the commute fun through simple games, engaging friends, or rewarding with stickers can set your new routine in motion. 


Share the Road Classes for High Schools

New Share the Road curriculum teaches high school students the rules of the road and emphasizes predictable behavior of all road users. Regardless of whether they drive, walk, or bike, teens will better understand the rights and perspectives of other road users and their personal responsibility for safety.   

Ashley Leonard, a sophomore at San Marin High School, was concerned about the safety of fellow students crossing the streets adjacent to her high school.  Ashley, as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award, received grant funding from Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)’s Spare the Air Youth program for Safe Routes Instructors to teach Share the Road classes to all 300 San Marin freshmen. 

Using Department of Motor Vehicle laws and fact based statistics, students learned topics addressing common causes for injury and fatalities, including: pedestrian right of way when using crosswalks verses mid-street crossing; the Dutch reach when exiting a car into traffic; when cyclists’ legally can and should take a full lane with cars; the impact of speed and distracted driving; what to do if involved in a crash.  San Marin students then selected a topic and created short videos to share what they learned with fellow students. 

The Safe Routes to School program’s goal is for this next generation of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists to know the legal rights and responsibilities of all road users. The education comes at a crucial time, right before many get their drivers licenses.  This class teaches students to comprehensively think about safety for everyone because we all use the streets.


From Biking to School to Champion Mountain Biker

Sixteen year old Audrey Fehlhaber is a champion mountain bike racer and one of five captains on the Drake High School Mountain Bike team.  It all started in elementary school when her father had her bike to school every day, up and down the hill to her house. 

“My dad put me on the bike when I was three,” she said with a smile.   Growing up, they went mountain biking together and she went to mountain bike camps where she started beating everyone to the top of the mountains.  She is now the 2018 state champion in the Junior Varsity category.  She credits the repetition of riding to and from school every day as one of the factors that made her such a strong rider.  Continuous bicycling exposure on the road and in the mountains  gave her  confidence,  skills, and  introduction to the mountain biking community.  “I push myself to achieve my personal best,” she explained.  During the race, “It was on the first lap that I pulled away from the group and expected someone to follow me, and no one did. It didn't sink in (that she had won) until I crossed the finish line.”

While she now walks the close distance to school, she still enjoys commuting by bike. “It's a practical mode of transportation,” she said.  “Plus it brings me joy and it’s so much fun.”  She credits her biking experience as an important ingredient in making her a better driver.  “I had an understanding of the dynamics on the road. I already understood behavior and etiquette. It made learning to drive easier. Plus, I’m more conscious of bicyclists on the road.  I always put myself in their position.”

Audrey  has a strong commitment to attracting more girls to cycling.  She has volunteered at Little Bellas and  mentored younger female riders. “When I was little I was the only girl biking,” she explained. “Now that I've met other strong girls, it has really helped to keep me from feeling isolated. I have a large group of girls who can help recruit.” 

The Drake High School team has the most girls of any other mountain biking team in their league.  They have a goal of making their team 50% female by 2025.  They collectively lobbied the league to change the scoring rules to emphasize female participation.  While they wanted 50% of points to come from girls, the standing rules now require that 2 out of 8 point scorers must be girls for a Division I team and 1 out of 4 point scorers must be girls for a Division II team.

In order to attract more girls to cycling, older girls can  reach out and coach girls in middle and elementary schools and show them what biking has to offer.  Creating camaraderie and biking with friends may  influence more girls to start biking.  The bike community needs to reinforce having strong female leaders. Certainly Audrey has proven herself to be one of those leaders.


Winter Walking to School

Throughout the US, millions of children continue to walk to school despite wind, rain, and yes, snow.  Although Marin is not inundated with snow or  ice, brisk mornings, thick fog, and incessant rain can put a damper on a family’s enthusiasm.   Families Online Magazine provides some tips to keep momentum going in winter months. 

Proper clothing, gear, and support from parents can keep students in the groove of walking to school, and most kids that brave the elements say that it’s actually fun.   Scarves, hats, and gloves along with lightweight down jackets are worthwhile investments.  Umbrellas, boots and rain jackets can transform students into weather superheroes on their way to school. Light colored clothing increases visibility. For additional safety, put reflective material and blinking red lights on backpacks and coats. Shoes with light up soles are popular and add a safety feature, especially for younger children.

Practice the route to school with your child so you can reinforce where they should walk and how to cross the roads safely.  If your student resists walking to school or wearing the proper gear to keep them safe and warm, consider incentivizing them by collecting points with stickers for a small award.  Families Online Magazine also suggests older students collect points by  texting pictures to parents to track their progress to school.    

To build resiliency slowly, families can park their car and walk a short distance to school (Park and Walk).  Forming carpools and walking school buses with other families allows busy parents to take turns “driving the bus” to school. Carpooling and walking school buses helps to foster friendships with the ultimate goal being that as students get older, they will continue to travel together, increasing their group visibility and safety.

Crossing Guard Program Grows with New Funding from Measure AA

When school is back in session in January, the Transportation Authority of Marin  will add 15 new crossing guards to key intersections near schools. The increase in crossing guards was made possible due to the approval of Measure AA in November. Measure AA significantly increased funding for guards and enabled the expansion of the program to 97 crossing guards throughout Marin. Without the new funding, the program would have been reduced to only 58 crossing guards. Marin County voters resoundingly approved the county’s ½ cent transportation sales tax extension by voting "yes" on Measure AA. This critical local funding source, projected to generate $27 million each year, is now secured for the next 30 years.  

Starting in April 2019, in addition to the crossing guard increase Measure AA will:

  • Provide a reliable 30-year funding stream for Marin County road projects
  • Continue to attract millions of dollars in federal, state, and regional funding because Marin County is a “self-help” county
  • Protect and expand the award-winning Safe Routes to Schools Program
  • Increase funding for transit programs for seniors and people with disabilities
  • Provide dedicated funds for school bus services (which significantly reduces school-time congestion)
  • Help to complete significant projects, such as the Marin-Sonoma Narrows and building a direct connector between northbound Highway 101 and eastbound I-580
  • Provide continuous funding commitments for local transit
  • Expand a commitment to fund clean air vehicle infrastructure for alternative fuel vehicles
  • Create new seed funding to support projects that address sea-level rise and support mobility improvements through innovative technology


Park and Walk Campaign Coming to Schools

Safe Routes to Schools was awarded grant funding from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) to reduce traffic and pollution on school campuses through a Park and Walk Campaign. 

The Problem: According to the EPA, children’s developing lungs and brains make them most vulnerable to air toxins emitted from vehicles.  “No idling” policies in school zones can help but there is still more to be done. Slow moving cars lining up to arrive or depart campus add to the problem: a single vehicle dropping off and picking up students emits three pounds of pollution per month. Asthma,  the most common chronic illness in children,  can increase due to  car exhaust. Carbon monoxide reduces the blood’s ability to circulate oxygen to body cells and tissues. (AirwatchNW).

The Solution: Reducing cars on campus by designating Park and Walk locations would help reduce pollution surrounding schools.  Families who currently drive because they have younger siblings or live too far from school will be encouraged to park and walk a short distance to school.  Parking locations would be selected that have safe access to schools with quiet streets, clear pathways, and marked crosswalks and/or crossing guards. 

The goal is to include every family at participating schools, to create happy kids, and to engage school community through the social fun of walking or rolling together.  Additionally, children reportedly love the Safe Routes crossing guards.  Park and Walk gives more children a chance to bond with these dedicated adults who cheerfully serve our students every day. 


Leafwood Road Improved for Student Travel

After two students from Lynwood Elementary were hit by cars while walking to school, the City of Novato made substantial progress on promises made to this school community.  The children live on Leafwood Drive which leads to the back entrance to the school.  Leafwood was given a temporary crosswalk as well as new signage and pavement markings to identify the school zone. Red curb lines have also been painted at the crosswalk to prevent cars from parking in or blocking the crosswalk.

Christopher Blunk, Deputy Director of Department of Public Works, said during the last Novato Task Force meeting that the goal is to eventually have a crosswalk sporting either zebra lines or flowers that entice the students and parents to use it. Blunk thinks the project will be finalized sometime between the spring and the summer of 2019. He points out that making a crosswalk is not as simple as it looks. There are many engineering aspects such as the drainage and the slope of the street that need to be considered or fixed before proceeding to paint the lines (or the artwork, in this case). All crosswalks must be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Sabrina Salas, a resident of Leafwood Drive whose children attend Lynwood, said that the temporary improvements have already made a difference because “students respect and use the crosswalk.” She notes, however, that drivers are still parking in the red zones and that accidents happen when the children are forced to cross the street in between cars. She hopes that the final improvements, in addition to more police patrolling their street, will substantially improve the safety of students walking to school.

Redwood High School Limits Student Parking

In an effort to increase carpooling and reduce congestion around the school, Redwood High School, in consultation with the City of Larkspur and the Central Marin Police Authority, has developed new student parking policies and procedures. As stated in the policy: “Given the challenges of student parking on our campus and our surrounding community, our growing student population and our intentions to reduce school commute auto congestion and single-occupancy vehicles parking on campus, we have changed the policies and procedures around student parking on our campus.”

During the 2018-19 school year, a limited number of student parking permits will be issued to students who live more than a 20-minute walk from Redwood. The same number of student parking permits will be issued as there are student parking spaces, plus approximately 15 additional permits to account for absent students on any given day. Furthermore, student parking permits will first be issued to students who live more than a 20-minute walk from Redwood and make a commitment to carpooling. Redwood defines a carpool as three or more students, including the driver, in a car, who live more than a 20-minute walk from Redwood. Carpool parking spots are located in a prime location in both parking lots and will be monitored by campus assistants and administration.  To ensure the safety of all students and community members, students with a parking permit will not be allowed to drive off campus during lunch.

Main goals of the new policy are to reduce the number of students driving to school and help students arrive safely.Those who live within a 20-minute radius of Redwood can reasonably walk or bike to school. “While sometimes a challenge,” it states, “we appreciate all of our students who walk, bike, bus or carpool to school to help us manage the parking and traffic challenges in our community and model treading lightly on our environment.”  Students with reserved spots can avoid  speeding to school because they know they will be guaranteed a parking spot when they arrive.

Safe Routes to Schools applauds Redwood’s bold initiative to reduce car usages and encourage green transportation choices.  Redwood also publishes information on green choices on  their web site, including walking and biking maps and bus schedules.

Student Parking Policies and Procedures

Student Parking Enforcement Announcement

Student Parking FAQs

Lock and Register It!

Along with that shiny new bike your child got for the holidays, be sure to include a bike lock. Many people invest thousands of dollars in their bikes and do very little to protect them. A U-lock can cost as low  as $35 and a cable lock even less. The best protection is to use a U-lock in conjunction with a cable lock by locking the bike frame to the bike rack and running the cable through the wheels.  Teach your child to protect his/her bicycle with proper locking.

The Marin County Sheriff’s Department has a Bicycle Registry that enables law enforcement to quickly identify stolen bicycles and return them to their owners. Simply download the form from the Sheriff’s Department website and provide some detailed information on your bicycle, including its serial number. The form can be faxed or mailed to the sheriff’s office. Stolen bicycles are big business for small time criminals – LOCK it or LOSE it!