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An important component to our goal to increase safety near San Francisco's public and private schools is through education and encouragement activities. The SFMTA works with the schools, the San Francisco Unified School District and other City Departments such as the Department of Public Health and the Police Department to discuss and coordinate how best to educate the public about child safety around schools. Cooperation from parents and children are the biggest key factors in making any educational and encouragement program successful. Here are some ways that the SFMTA is educating and encouraging safe walking, biking and driving around schools.
First, a reminder….
The first step in combating school traffic dangers is for parents to realize that this is the case - parents can be serious traffic hazards themselves. Aside from causing traffic congestion, some parents often double park or stop on crosswalks, blocking visibility for children and other motorists. Visibility is further reduced during the rain and fog seasons when condensation forms on car windows. Another common problem is parents loading or unloading children across the street from the school, forcing youngsters to cross busy streets – often midblock rather than at a crosswalk. Or children may open the car door and dash directly into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
What can you as a parent do to eliminate these hazards for your child?
Realize that walking is good for kids – and good for the environment. The Centers for Disease Control recently described “the lack of exercise as a worrisome trend" (Source: "Few kids walk or bike to school," Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press. San Francisco Chronicle, August 16, 2002.) as childhood obesity has increased and health problems such as diabetes have risen dramatically along with it. Auto emissions can contribute to poor respiratory health in children as well. If you are within walking distance of your child's school or bus stop, walk with them during the first week of school to:
If you are meeting your child at school at the end of the day to walk them home, try to be on the school side of the street when the bell rings. Distracted children spotting parents across the street may dash into the roadway without looking first.
If you must drive your child to or from school, follow these suggestions to minimize traffic hazards:
The SFMTA has a few flyers for parents who must drive their children to school.
San Francisco Safe Routes to School Program
Safe Routes to School programs began in Europe and Canada, and building off the success of International Walk to School Day, have become popular in the United States as well. California's Safe Routes to School program has the stated goal of getting more children traveling safely to and from school on foot or bike, with greater frequency. This is done through a combination of engineering approaches, increased enforcement, and education for motorists and children.
Caltrans has provided $24 million a year for construction projects to reduce speeding, narrow crossing distances and improve children's visibility around California schools since 2000. San Francisco has successfully obtained 12 grants from this funding source to construct street improvements to increase children's safety on their route to school.
The City recently launched the San Francisco Safe Routes to School Program to help educate and encourage safe walking and biking to school. Headed by the Department of Public Health (DPH), the SFMTA is partnering with DPH, the San Francisco Unified School District, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the Presidio YMCA Bike Program and the San Francisco Police Department to deliver this program. This program will deliver traffic safety services aimed at children ranging from education, encouragement, engineering to enforcement at 15 elementary schools in San Francisco in the 2009-11 school years. Funding has been identified to expand to more schools and continue this program after 2011. Some program components include bike safety education lessons such as "bike roadeos", pedestrian safety classes, encouragement activities, creating walking/biking maps to school, performing walking "audits" (also known as walkabouts) and traffic enforcement.
If you are interested in starting such a program at your school, getting your school involved in Walk to School Day and/or Bike to School Day is a great way to start. Our Walk to School Day Toolkit at the San Francisco Walk to School Day website has many good ideas to help you get started.
For more information on this program, visit the San Francisco Safe Routes to School Program website to find out how your school can participate. Additional educational and encouragement material is also available on the website even if your school does not join the program.
International Walk to School Day
Children from around the world participate in this event usually held the first Wednesday of each October. Its aim is to improve and increase awareness of children's safety and health. This is an ideal opportunity to call attention to school traffic safety issues facing kids in San Francisco. With parent and teacher support, Walk to School Day can be a springboard for schools to promote traffic safety and to apply for a traffic safety grant from the California Safe Routes to School Program.
The SFMTA (and the former Department of Parking and Traffic) has led the way and/or sponsored Walk to School Day in San Francisco since 2002. Starting out with 6 schools that year, participation in this special event has gradually increased to over 25 in 2009. Interest and participation continues to grow, and with the help of the San Francisco Safe Routes to School Program, the aim is to increase the number of schools participation to new levels.
If you are interested in getting involved with Walk to School Day, check out the official San Francisco Walk to School Day website for information. In addition, you can review the Walk to School Day Toolkit for more ideas on traffic safety tips and activities.
The next Walk to School Day is October 3, 2012.
San Francisco Bike to School Day
The SFMTA helps sponsor and participates in the San Francisco Bike to School Day, which started in 2009, to encourage children and their parents to try biking to school on this one day of the school year to see how they like it. Children and parents meet at a starting point and then ride in a group (called a "bike train") to school before and/or after school. The 2011 event was another success and everyone is looking forward to the next San Francisco Bike to School Day on April 12, 2012.
If you are interested in getting involved with Bike to School Day, check out the official San Francisco Bike to School Day website for information. Also check out the Bike to School Day resources and for more ideas on traffic safety tips and activities.
School Safety Patrol Program
The California State Automobile Association (CSAA) and the San Francisco Police Department Traffic Company is enhancing and expanding the School Traffic Safety Patrol Program in San Francisco. The safety patrol works with local school staff and interested parents to improve the safety of our City's school children. Emphasis is placed on teaching youth about traffic safety, teamwork, responsibility and community service. Trained volunteer students can serve as school crossing guards with supervision from an adult.
Proper Parking at the new Curb Ramp Loading/Parking Areas
Starting in 2005, the San Francisco Unified School District was required to start installing new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) curb ramp parking areas at certain schools as a result of a lawsuit. A design was agreed upon by the City agencies and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and is now being constructed at SFUSD schools around the City. The loading zone is in effect during certain hours of the day, so drivers should read the signs carefully to make sure the zone are not in effect before parking in the spot.
Drivers should parking in the designated parking space and avoid parking in the white diagonally-striped area where passengers load and unload from paratransit vehicles.
This is the wrong way to park:
Cars should be parked in the parking “T”s and not in the area with the diagonal lines. Parking in the area with the diagonal lines can result in oil puddles that are undesirable for wheelchair users and pedestrians.
This is the correct way to park:
This car is correctly parked within the parking “T”s and avoids the diagonally-striped area.
Other Educational Resources:
National Safe Routes to School Program – A collection site of Safe Routes to School resources from all over the United States.
Safe Routes to School National Partnership – A national group of individuals pushing to advance safe routes to school programs in the United States.
Marin Safe Routes to School Program – One of the groups that helped jump-start Safe Routes to Schools in the United States. Many great educational materials can be found here.
California State Automobile Association (CSAA) Traffic Safety Brochures - CSAA offers many brochures on all kinds of traffic safety topics. Subject matter includes proper car seat usage, bicycle safety, scooter safety, pedestrian safety, school area safety, what teens should know when learning to drive, alcohol awareness, and senior driving safety.
California Driver Handbook – It’s never too late to refresh your traffic safety knowledge if you must drive your kids to school. Good review of pedestrian and bicycling rules too. This is THE guide to use for new student drivers.
For Kids Only: Otto Club – Learning about traffic safety is fun! :-)
Safer Journey CD series – An excellent interactive CD-ROM for kids (and adults too) designed to increase their awareness of bicycle and pedestrian safety. You can also view the CD-ROM online too. This is offered for free by the US Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration.
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
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Livable Streets services are provided by the Sustainable Streets Division of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). Copyright © 2000-2013 SFMTA. All rights reserved. Updated January 4, 2013