Safe Routes to School
Over the past 30 years, the way children get to school has changed dramatically. According to the Federal Highway Administration, over half of 5 to 18 year-olds walked or biked to school in 1969. By 2001, almost 9 out of 10 children aged 5 to 15 rode to school in a car or bus. Though we don't have statistics for local schools, traffic congestion around schools at pick-up and drop-off times suggest that Santa Cruz is no exception to this rule.
The causes of this shift are numerous. Suburbanization and school consolidation have increased the distance between home and school for many children; increased traffic volumes and the perception of "stranger danger" make parents reluctant to let their kids walk to school by themselves; and lack of good facilities for walking and biking are also a problem. In a nationwide study of 9,000 “walkability” audits conducted by the the National Safe Kids Campaign in 2001, nearly 60 percent of parents and children encountered at least one serious physical hazard along the route to school.
But the consequences of not walking are also serious. Obesity, Type II diabetes, and asthma are affecting children at an alarming rate; inactivity and air pollution caused by automobiles are implicated in these epidemics.
School closings and consolidation present a new transportation challenge for area schools. The closing of Natural Bridges School on the Westside, and Branciforte on the Eastside, mean a longer trip to school for those students. More car trips to the remaining schools mean more even more congestion in the mornings and afternoons.
Highway 1 off-ramp at Morrissey, on the way to Delaveaga School
Fortunately, parents at area schools are getting together to make walking to school a safe, enjoyable activity. At Delaveaga school, concern focuses on the Highway 1 off-ramp at Morrissey, located squarely on the route to school for many in the school's enlarged attendance area. Parents are gathering signatures in support of a stop sign and other safety features at this exit.
At Westlake School, parents are organizing "walking school buses" to promote walking as an enjoyable, healthy activity, and to alleviate traffic congestion. But, as organizers of the national Walk to School and Safe Routes to School campaigns have realized, promoting walking must go hand in hand with improvements to the pedestrian infrastructure. At Westlake School, lack of sidewalks and high traffic volumes on High Street, particularly at Moore and High, are a concern.
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Mission Pedestrian, 1711 Mission Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Last updated on Wednesday, 28-Jul-2004 09:36:58 PDT