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Release date: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Keeps Kids Safe Walking and Biking to School

*** Press Release ***

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

San Francisco’s schools are changing in many ways.  One way is in how kids get to and from school, causing concern over student safety.  Schools are farther from home, fewer students are biking or walking to school, and traffic develops around schools as parents drop off their children from cars.  Bicycling and walking are no longer the everyday routines learned early in life that they once were.

To enhance current school safety efforts, the SFMTA, in collaboration with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), YMCA of San Francisco and Bayan Consulting, is launching its School Area Bicycle, Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Project. The project will pilot bicycle and pedestrian safety programs in schools as well as develop traffic circulation plans and fund parking enforcement. Funding for this program is provided by a $408,772 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“The OTS grant is a significant opportunity for San Francisco to promote safe walking and bicycling for children traveling to and from school,” said Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr., SFMTA Executive Director/CEO. “Not only do we have funding to teach specific skills to our students, but we will be able to comprehensively address school-related traffic with education, engineering and enforcement.”

In San Francisco, many parents will not allow their children to bicycle alone without comprehensive bicycle safety education and training. The national trend, which is reflected in San Francisco, away from walking and bicycling among youth has not only impacted children’s mobility and independence, but also their physical activity levels. In spite of such trends, bicycling clubs have sprung up in San Francisco middle and high schools. With newly developed cognitive skills and the active exploration of boundaries and rules, middle school youth are at potentially higher risk for injury than other cyclists. The emergence of bike clubs and interest by school staff in after-school programs presents an opportunity to begin more systematic bicycle safety education of middle school youth. The YMCA of San Francisco, through a contract with the SFMTA, will implement comprehensive bicycle safety education programs at eight project schools.

School area traffic safety is an ongoing concern in San Francisco. Because our schools were designed as local, neighborhood schools they rarely have parking lots, dedicated parking or even loading areas to accommodate school traffic. We must address the often hazardous situations created by double- and triple-parking, dropping children in the middle of crowded streets, and parking on sidewalks, in driveways and curb ramps, or blocking crosswalks that can cause injury collisions and further the perception of danger that prevents caregivers from allowing children to walk or bicycle to school. In cooperation with the SFUSD, individual elementary schools and Bayan Consulting, the SFMTA will develop and implement traffic  circulation plans and a monitoring and enforcement program for passenger drop-off at twelve project schools to improve the safety of children walking and bicycling to school, as well as those who are driven to school.

“Life in urban areas is changing,” said Christopher J. Murphy, Director of the California OTS.  “We have to look at changing the ways we need to protect our children when they are out in the world.  School is an enormous part of their lives, so we must ensure that they can get to and from school safely.”

The SFMTA is looking forward to collaborating with the SFUSD and community-based organizations on these projects to reduce bicycle and pedestrian collisions. School area traffic safety is one of our primary concerns and our agency is eager to make every effort to reduce the risk of injury on our streets and around our schools.

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