News // August 05, 2014

San Diego Safe Routes to School Update

In previous generations, the majority of school aged children either walked or biked to school. Children got more physical activity, streets were less congested, and air quality was better. Fast forward to today:  less than 15 percent of children living within a two-mile radius either walk or bike to school. A vast majority are either driven by parents or taken to school by bus. Increased traffic and safety concerns have made it inhospitable for many children to bike or walk to school.  Thirty years ago, five percent of children between the ages of 6 and 11 were considered to be overweight or obese.  Today, that number has quadrupled to 20 percent.
Safe Routes to School
Safe Routes to School programs were created to reverse these trends. Safe Routes to School is an international movement that has taken hold in communities throughout the United States.  The goal is to increase the number of children who walk or bicycle to school by funding projects that remove the barriers that currently prevent them from doing so through education/encouragement programs aimed at children, parents, and the community.  Those barriers include lack of infrastructure, unsafe infrastructure, and lack of programs that promote walking and bicycling.

Safe Routes to School programs support the  Live Well San Diego  initiative’s vision of healthy, safe, and thriving communities in the following ways:

  • Better health for children and communities
  • Improved safety while walking and bicycling
  • Alignment of families, neighbors, school officials and community leaders together under the common goal of a safe trip to school brings

Safe Routes to Schools in San Diego County
Among the 16 cities and 3.2 million people living in San Diego County, there are over 1,000 public (761) and private (251) schools comprising over half a million students. The county has been awarded more than $18 million in state Safe Routes to School funds awarded and $6.6 million in federal funds.  The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) adopted aRegional Safe Routes to School Strategic Plan, a comprehensive report that describes how these funds have been put to use in the region and identifies recommendations for future funding.
The County of San Diego and cities of National City, Chula Vista, Lemon Grove, San Diego, and Encinitas have all completed Safe Routes to School projects featuring traffic calming elements. The City of Encinitas used a federal Safe Routes to School grant to fund first phase implementation of a neighborhood traffic calming project surrounding Cardiff Elementary School, and the City of National City received a state grant to improve access to Central Elementary School with a road diet, traffic calming, and amenities along East 8th Street. In San Diego, the City Heights neighborhood Urban Village is a mixed-use public space that provides recreational and educational opportunities to adults and youth including enhanced pedestrian access to Rosa Parks Elementary School.

Want to know more about what’s going on with Safe Routes to School in your region?
South Region
In 2008, the Chula Vista Elementary School District received a Safe Routes to School grant from Caltrans targeting 17 elementary schools.  Through workshops conducted by Walk San Diego, the city obtained federal funding for infrastructure improvements around some of the schools. The City of Chula Vista’s Pedestrian Master Plan included highlights of the schools’ efforts and infrastructure needs.  Chula Vista Elementary School District recently updated itswellness policy  to include Safe Routes to School.

East Region
The City of La Mesa, in partnership with Walk San Diego, and with support from the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency and the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, implemented the Safe Routes to School program at eight La Mesa Schools.  The  La Mesa Safe Routes Guide  provides detailed information about how to start and maintain a Safe Routes to School program.

Central Region
Rady Children’s Hospital Safe Routes to School program is active in the community of southeastern San Diego working with all six middle schools.  Students at Bell Middle School competed to develop the best helmet safety skit. Through a partnership with Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego – Safe Routes to Schools program, the winning group was filmed for a Public Service Announcement to air on San Diego County TV, in all San Diego Unified Schools on their CCTV channels, and in movie theater previews in San Diego. View the video  here.

North Central
Montgomery Middle School was awarded a $1,000 Safe Routes to School mini-grant to begin a volunteer Safe Passage and Violence Prevention Coalition among students, school officials, parents and law enforcement.  Adult supervision on street corners along routes to school help address the fears of gangs and bullying as reported by students in the school’s 2009 Safe Passage Survey.  Brochures and outreach fliers inform parents and community members about Safe Passage efforts and educate them about available resources and the health benefits of choosing walking and bicycling. In addition, bicycle helmets are provided to students who cannot afford to purchase the protective equipment on their own.

North Regions
The City of Encinitas developed a  Safe Routes to School Scorecard (2011)   as a resource to help those advocating for Safe Routes to School programs. By utilizing this Safe Routes to School Scorecard program, the City of Encinitas, school districts and various community groups will have a more focused approach to Safe Routes to School implementation. It also helps develop a unified, multi-layer partnership between students, parents, school faculty, law enforcement, city staff and elected officials.

Want to take action in helping your school join the Safe Routes to School movement?
Ask your school to join the  2014 Walk, Ride, and Roll to School   awareness campaign implemented by the SANDAG  iCommute  SchoolPool program and Safe Routes to School initiative and win prizes up to $1000 for classroom supplies.