May tends to be a busy time for the WALKSacramento team as we wrap up a year of Safe Routes to School programs and celebrate accomplishments in walking and biking with students and families. This May was especially significant for us, as we also saw the fruition of several active transportation infrastructure projects that stemmed from previous years of Safe Routes to School advocacy and community engagement. Here are some of the highlights from our work this year!
During the 2018-19 school year, we partnered with eleven schools in South Sacramento, West Sacramento, and Foothill Farms to launch and expand Safe Routes to School programs. In South Sacramento, we worked with four schools to inspire greater use of active transportation, improve traffic safety through education and infrastructure, and grow local advocacy and organizing for built environment change as part of a three-year program funded by The California Endowment. In West Sacramento, we continued to work with the City’s public K-8 schools to support ongoing education and encouragement programs, including kicking off urban exploration bicycle clubs and other family-friendly activities to build a culture around active transportation. In Foothill Farms, we helped an elementary and middle school get started with bike-focused education and encouragement as part of a two-year program funded by the California Department of Public Health following a tragic crash involving a young student.
Each school’s program incorporated the six E’s of Safe Routes to School: education, encouragement, engineering, enforcement, evaluation, and equity. In total, over 2,500 students, families, staff, and community partners celebrated Walk and Bike to School events, and over 950 students gained new traffic safety skills at bike and pedestrian rodeos.
While Safe Routes to School programs have traditionally been geared towards younger grade levels, engaging students beyond elementary school is important for sustaining a culture of active transportation and inspiring a new generation of leaders to fight climate change. This year, we implemented innovative youth engagement activities including youth empowerment video voice projects with middle school students, urban exploration clubs, and climate change science experiments with local Girl Scout troops. In March, we partnered with California Walks and UC Berkeley SafeTREC on a workshop at Foothill High School to engage middle and high school students in identifying and addressing transportation barriers in their community. Looking ahead to 2019-20, we are excited to continue building the next generation of mobility leaders at new high schools and through exciting civic engagement programs.
Our previous Safe Routes to School work has also led to a number of initiatives breaking ground in the spring of 2019. On May 1st, the City of West Sacramento held a ribbon cutting for the completion of Sycamore Trail from Joey Lopes Park to Westfield Village Elementary. Through our Safe Routes to School program in West Sacramento from 2012-14, parents, students, and community members identified need for safer off-street trails to get students to school and connect the community. Further community engagement helped garner support for an extension of Sycamore Trail over US 50, which would provide a vital connection to school for Westfield Village and Westmore Oaks students. While the City is still in the process of design and construction for Phases II and III, the completion of the first leg of the trail represents a huge success for the community and the City’s commitment to active transportation.
Following a series of walk audits, community organizing events, and student-focused activities, Sacramento County received nearly $1,000,000 in funding through the Active Transportation Program to improve pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure around Fern Bacon Middle School in South Sacramento. This project was catalyzed and informed by walk audits with community partners who identified transportation barriers and their vision for active transportation as part of the school’s Safe Routes to School program during the 2017-18 school year. School staff, students, and parents had identified sidewalk gaps as a major safety concern for students walking to school. In addition to constructing sidewalks along student routes, the ATP-funded project includes proposed improvements to crosswalks and bicycle facilities around the school.
Other key wins this past year include massive commitments from the City of Sacramento to improve student safety and mobility through Vision Zero school safety studies, the reduction of hundreds of school speed limits to 15mph, and free bus passes for all students living within the City. As we look to grow our Safe Routes programs to other school communities as well as parks and healthy retail, we’re excited to build upon these landmark policy, systems, and environment successes.
We are incredibly thankful to all of the schools, communities, and countless partners who participated in Safe Routes to School programs and helped to improve safety, inspire fun, and lift up neighborhoods in creating lasting change for active transportation. As we head into the fall, we look forward to working on new and innovative programs, including a trip-matching technology program with the San Juan Unified School District, high school and charter school youth empowerment programs in West Sacramento, and continuing to build advocacy for Safe Routes to School in historically underrepresented communities across the region.
Check out our highlight reel for more!