What is Safe Routes to School in Gilroy, California?
Safe Routes to School is an international movement that has taken hold in communities throughout the United States. The goal is to increase the number of children who walk or bicycle to school by funding projects that remove the barriers that currently prevent them from doing so. Those barriers include lack of infrastructure, unsafe infrastructure, lack of programs that promote walking and bicycling through education/encouragement programs aimed at children, parents, and the community.
Why is Safe Routes to School important?
Thirty years ago, 60% of children living within a 2-mile radius of a school walked or bicycled to school. Today, that number has dropped to less than 15%. Roughly 25% commute by school bus, and well over half are driven to or from school in vehicles. And back then, 5% of children between the ages of 6 and 11 were considered to be overweight or obese. Today, that number has climbed to 20%. These statistics point to a rise in preventable childhood diseases, worsening air quality and congestion around schools, and missed opportunities for children to grow into self reliant, independent adults.
Safe Routes to School Programs are intended to reverse these trends by funding projects that improve safety and efforts that promote walking and bicycling within a collaborative community framework. It is through local champions in Gilroy working with a coalition of parents, schools, professionals in transportation, engineering, health, and law enforcement, that the most sustainable projects are expected to emerge.
What is the overall plan for Gilroy elementary and middle schools?
The Gilroy Unified School District has developed a comprehensive education and outreach plan to encourage more students to walk and bicycle to school in a safe manner. They are currently implementing the plan for the seven elementary schools and three middle schools in the City of Gilroy. These activities are part of the comprehensive GUSD plan. This project will include outreach and education activities for the Antonio Del Buono Elementary School as the pilot school in conjunction with providing a safer route to the school.
The outreach and education element includes the following activities: student traffic safety workshops and rodeos; bicycle safety workshops; parent training workshops to support the creation of “Walking School Buses” and address parent concerns relative to student safety; and use of “Student Passports” where student track walking and bicycling ti school and receive stickers or other tokens for reaching key milestones.