Thursday, May 08, 2008

Safe Routes to School?

"A neat suburban San Ramon neighborhood on Saturday was mourning the death of 11-year-old Daniel Pan, a brainy, sweet fifth-grader who was on his way home from school when he rode his bicycle into the path of a small bus and was killed."

It's one thing for adults
to adopt the politically correct bike delusion as a way of life---or even to urge the city to redesign its streets on behalf of this small, politically aggressive minority. But surely the city should draw the line at urging its school children to adopt this dangerous hobby. If, as Leah Shahum claims below, the SF Bicycle Coalition and the city are focusing on children that live within a half-mile of school, why not simply encourage them to walk to school? Why encourage them to get out on busy city streets on bikes?

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons cites cycling as the greatest cause of head injuries to children.
The Examiner

While San Francisco is often seen as a bikeable, walkable city, very few students ride bicycles or walk to school, according to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. The City’s Department of Public Health is hoping a $500,000 grant will change that.

The grant, from the federal Safe Routes to School programs, would provide funding for infrastructure and education that would make it easier for students to walk and bicycle to school. Leaders said they hope to roll out Safe Routes programs at five local schools in the fall and at another 10 next fall.

“We’re looking to focus on schools with a high percentage of students living within a half-mile of the school,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

The coalition — along with DPH and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority — is also eyeing five schools that already have been targeted for traffic taming, including Thurgood Marshall Academic High School, Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School, Longfellow Elementary School, Jefferson Elementary School and Tenderloin Community School, said Jessica Manzi of the SFMTA.

Safe Routes to School originally was hatched across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County in August 2000. The project, founded by the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, has become a national model; $612 million in federal funding was released to 42 states for Safe Routes programs in 2007.

Marin has since seen a 40 percent decline in car-related traffic near schools, according to Shahum.

While San Francisco received its grant last year, it can’t launch Safe Routes until it passes a handful of legal hurdles with the California Department of Transportation, the agency responsible for disbursing the money, said Ana Validzic, pedestrian and traffic safety project coordinator for the DPH.

Maggie Morgan-Butcher, 11, who attends Alamo Elementary School in the Richmond district, said she enjoys biking or walking to school.

“It’s really fun — you get some fresh air before you go sit in a classroom all day,” Morgan-Butcher
said. Her only safety concerns come when she crosses 25th Avenue, she said, because it’s so busy.

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At 12:43 AM, Blogger John Spragge said...

Rob, one or two posts back I referenced the numbers for pedestrian deaths in your country. These figures strongly suggest that at best, having children walk to school does not make them safer than having them cycle to school.

At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And as usual Rob, you've completely missed the big picture, and in doing so have misrepresented the issue of safety. What difference does it make if we keep our kids "safe" if they live sedentary lifestyles, end up obese, and have shorter life spans than their parents and grandparents?

At 9:27 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Thanks for the Big Thought on the Big Picture, Anon. So it's either ride a bike to school or die? Encouraging kids to walk more seems like a better idea than encouraging them to ride their bikes to school.

At 10:42 PM, Blogger John Spragge said...

Rob, I have statistics that suggest as many as at least four, and possibly as many as eight, pedestrians die on the streets for each cyclist. That makes it at least questionable that school children can walk more safely than they can ride.

At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I favor reducing the driving age to 7 years old and subsidizing (or perhaps tax credits) for families to afford an SUV for each child in their family of 7 years or older. As a parent in San Francisco, I am deeply concerned about the dangerous traffic conditions in my neighborhood (not to mention the frequent abductions that plague our city). I feel that only by giving each child an Expedition (or similar SUV - a Hummer or Suburban are also possible choices) can we ensure a safe environment for our children. Also we would be giving our children valuable lessons in driving skills which will last a lifetime. And as always, thanks for your continued advocacy of the "silent majority" or drivers, Rob!


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