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Steven Morris of the Bay Area Bike Mobile repairs a bicycle outside the Suisun Library, Aug. 21. The event was promoted by the Solano Transportation Authority's Safe Routes to School program. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)


Program works to get kids out of cars and walking to school

By From page A1 | September 01, 2014

FAIRFIELD — To get local schoolchildren to be healthier and more alert in the classroom, Sarah Fitzgerald of the Solano Transportation Authority’s Safe Routes to School program is asking them to get out of their parents’ cars and walk to school.

To do that, she and her staff are promoting efforts such as the Walking School Bus program, with adult volunteers escorting groups of children, the Bay Area Bike Mobile’s visits to local libraries to repair bikes and International Walk to School Day, where participating schools and students get prizes.

“We are working hard to reach out, primarily to elementary schools and middle schools,” Fitzgerald said. “The whole idea is to get kids moving.”

With the start of the school year, the Safe Routes to School organizers are putting together more walking groups, safety assemblies and bike rodeos, as well as channeling money to create more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly routes, such as the Grizzly Island Pedestrian route in Suisun City.

For example, coordinators for the Walking School Bus program are looking for parents and adult volunteers to expand the successful program that has organized and supervised groups of children walking to school along established routes. That program started in 2012 with four participating schools and four routes. As of April, it grew to 18 schools and 33 routes.

Fitzgerald points out it not only creates physical activity for children who haven’t walked to school before and cuts down traffic around schools, but also gives those who already walk to school a safer walking environment.

The Solano Transportation Authority adopted its Safe Routes to School plan in 2008 in response to growing concerns about student travel safety, growing traffic congestion and air pollution around schools, and the increasing amount of childhood obesity.

“The whole idea is to get kids moving,” Fitzgerald said, noting that children who walk or ride a bicycle to school are less tired and socialize more than those who simply ride to school in a car.

Its goals were to increase the number of children who bike or walk to school safely, reduce traffic congestion and pollution, and improve children’s health by increasing physical activity. Within two years, it expanded to cover all of the county’s schools.

The program has since collected more than $2.6 million in grants from organizations such as the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Much of that has been spent on programs such as Walking School Bus and items such as radar speed signs, bicycle and pedestrian improvements near schools and education events at local schools.

One of its most prominent pedestrian improvement projects has been the mile-long Grizzly Island Trail, which was formally opened in May with the help of $900,000 from the Safe Routes to School program and now allows Suisun City students to walk from Grizzly Island Road to Marina Boulevard without having to cross Highway 12 twice.

“It is going to be better and easier,” said Crystal Middle School student Sean Collins in May of his commute to and from school now.

Upcoming Safe Routes to School-related projects include improvements along Driftwood Drive in Suisun City, better intersection striping near two Vallejo elementary schools, and sidewalk improvements near Vacaville High School and C.A. Jacobs Middle School in Dixon.

The first of the school year’s walk to school days will be Oct. 8, when the Solano Transportation Authority takes part in the 2014 International Walk to School Day. Last year, 6,655 students and 25 schools, half of whom were in Vacaville, took part in the event. Fitzgerald said she hopes to see that expand this year.

Local schools have until Sept. 29 to register for the Walk to School Day, which will have incentive gifts such as backpacks and water bottles for participants.

Organizers for this and school level walk-to-school events will offer what Fitzgerald called “The Golden Sneaker Award” for the classes with the best participation.

The annual Bike to School Day will return in May 2015. Nine Solano County schools participated in 2014 and that number is expected to grow next spring.

For more information about Safe Routes to School, or to volunteer to take part in programs and events such as International Walk to School Day or help organize a Walking School Bus group, go to www.solanoSR2S.ca.gov or call 424-6075.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson has worked for the Daily Republic longer than he cares to remember. A native of Oregon and a graduate of the University of Oregon, he pines for the motherland still. He covers Vacaville and Travis Air Force Base for the Daily Republic. He is an avid military history buff, wargamer and loves the great outdoors.

Discussion | 9 comments

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  • SamanthaAugust 31, 2014 - 10:58 pm

    i would walk my son to school every morning and back home after school we live about 6 blocks from his school but the neighborhood this town has gotten so bad im scared to there could be a drive by or something its crazy here now. make our streets safer

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  • JimboAugust 31, 2014 - 11:27 pm

    I like the idea of parents getting involved and providing Safe routes to school.

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  • CD BrooksSeptember 01, 2014 - 5:55 am

    This is a great plan on many levels. When I walk with my grand kids I watch some of the dangerous habits of drivers. We should concentrate our efforts on parents racing thorough school zones and residential areas ignoring stop signs. Let's get folks back to obeying the law along with respect for the safety and comfort of others.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Chris RhodenSeptember 01, 2014 - 5:56 am

    Sure says a lot about how much negative change has taken place since I was a kid (the late 40s-early 50s). It was even safe to leave your house door unlocked.

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  • truth'nSeptember 01, 2014 - 6:02 am

    Every parent who is not employed needs to be out and about, walking their kids to school. Then they can walk into the school themselves and volunteer. It would be a wonderful lesson to teach their children.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Fred MenschSeptember 01, 2014 - 7:50 am

    Lemme get this straight: The libtards want us to let our kids walk to school - so the chesters can get em??!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Fred Mensch is anSeptember 01, 2014 - 8:01 am

    Id*ot. Grow up .

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Lynn HenricksonSeptember 01, 2014 - 11:51 am

    Hey Fred Mensch, as a liberal I want to thank you, we will take credit for all the great programs that are out there, meanwhile back on the "ranch" you all can keep promoting wealth only for the rich, welfare for corporations, and hate for anything that makes sense.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • perreynoidSeptember 01, 2014 - 8:54 am

    @ Fred-First off you just showed us what kind of person you are by using the R word.Second, if you read the actual article, and not just the headline, you'd know they kids would have adult chaperons. When I initially read the headline, I went "whoa, now the kids can get snatched", but then I read the story. Now that I know what it really is, I think it's a good thing.

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