It has been an exciting time for active transportation on the westside of Santa Cruz. Our Safe Routes to School team is implementing the second academic year of a 4-year active transportation grant funded by the State of California through the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).
Ecology Action, with support from the City of Santa Cruz, is providing the first-of-its- kind “vertical” non-infrastructure program at Bay View Elementary School in partnership with the County Health Services and Community Based Organizations.
What Sets This Program Apart?
The pilot program at Bay View Elementary goes beyond Ecology Action’s traditional 2nd Grade Walk Smart and 5th grade Bike Smart programming to encourage more students to bike, walk or roll to school in a safe manner.
For the first time ever, this pilot program will provide annual active transportation education to every student at Bay View Elementary. It extends the education and encouragement to the parents and the rest of the community through parent and family education events, community events, and collaboration with local community-based organizations.
This program introduces new strategies such as:
- Giving welcome packets to families with how to model pedestrian and bike safety skills and give them an opportunity to plan a safe route to school.
- Kindergarten presentations introduce the basic concepts of street safety in a fun, interactive way.
- Weekly “Walk and Roll Wednesday” events, mini “Bike and Walk to School” events, students receive free snacks and a small prize for walking or rolling to school.
- Parent education presentations loop parents into the education their students will be receiving and give them more tools, so they feel more confident to safely walk or bike with their children as a regular form of transportation.
- The Learn to Ride Clinics serve to provide access to instruction on the mechanics of how to ride a bicycle for Bayview students. We hope that the clinics will continue to empower youth and their families to utilize active transportation for healthier lives and a healthier community.
We have received fantastic feedback from the teachers at Bayview Elementary and will continue to request feedback.
No Better Time for This Active Transportation Initiative
A report by the World Health Organization concludes 80 percent of children between the ages of 11 and 17 are not physically active enough, a major factor in obesity, diabetes, and other health problems. Active transportation trips to school are a great opportunity for children to exercise each day, get sufficient physical activity and improve their overall health.
The safety of Santa Cruz County Streets for bicyclists and active transportation is a huge concern and our youth are even more vulnerable. We not only need more bicycle infrastructure to tackle this issue, which is on its way, it is crucial that it is coupled with non-infrastructure programs like this one, to keep our children safe.
The purpose of this non-infrastructure programming is to complement the construction of .8 miles of paved, car-free multi use pathway from the Santa Cruz Wharf roundabout to the intersection of Bay and California. Infrastructure elements include a multi-use path, retaining wall and railings, signs, pedestrian scale lighting, and fencing to separate the new trail from the existing rail line.
A Win-Win-Win for The County
Encouraging and educating youth, to engage in safe and active transportation not only improves the health of the community and cuts down on carbon emissions, but it also means more safety-informed youth participating in active transportation, a win-win-win for Santa Cruz County.
With children lacking inactivity and more exposed to road danger, local schools, agencies, and organizations are working in concert to implement real solutions. It is a smart, safe, and necessary next step for our community. One that we hope other cities will want to replicate.