Remember waking up early in the morning and the crisp, cool air on the walk to school? I don’t, I grew up in an era where I got dropped off every morning and have few memories of walking home. This is the reality in many homes regardless of whether students live within a 1-mile walking radius. There are many reasons why families don’t walk to school such as, parents’ work schedule, extra sleep, or having family members that attend different schools. However, should not walking to school ever be attributed to road conditions and driver behaviors that create an unsafe environment?
Circulate San Diego is utilizing education and encouragement of road safety in our schools as key strategies for reaching Vision Zero because traffic collisions are the leading cause of death for children ages zero to 13. Developing and integrating school-based programs that engage parents and students towards building greater awareness and road safety is a concept that has been embraced throughout the nation and is known as Safe Routes to School (SRTS). Over the last two years, Circulate San Diego has merged both these initiatives together to create an interdisciplinary concept that is yielding great success.
Starting in 2015, Circulate SD staff began approaching schools in close proximity to Vision Zero corridors to collaborate on education and encouragement programs. The activities arm students with the skills needed to face everyday road safety challenges and increase pedestrian awareness in the surrounding community.
Since our start with this combined program in September 2015, Circulate SD staff has provided 95 pedestrian safety trainings to students in 10 schools. Most recently in the month of March, we partnered with two schools to celebrate Walk to School Days where parents and students were encouraged to practice their new skills. These schools were Chollas-Mead Elementary, located on Market Street, and Logan Elementary, located on Ocean View Boulevard, just south of Imperial Avenue.
Walk to School Days are a celebration for everyone who walks and an opportunity for families who don’t typically walk to try something new. On this day, large numbers of families walked accompanied by police officers. Most importantly, school staff received the additional support they need from the greater community to keep students safe on the road, all while incentivizing healthy behaviors.
In addition to the education and encouragement activities, Circulate SD staff has been working with parents and staff to support projects around the schools that increase pedestrian safety. As we move forward, Circulate is looking forward to seeing the repainting of high visibility crosswalks, timing signals adjusted for students, the installation of additional school zone signs, and numerous other improvements.
As we continue to work towards the goal of zero deaths and serious injuries in San Diego, collaborating with students and families on education and school-based events such as Walk to School Days, will help prepare our future generations for safer, more walkable communities and active and healthy families.