With another school year underway the Safe Routes to School program is in full swing. As I’m writing this Luigi Aprea Elementary and Rod Kelley Elementary both have hosted Family Bike Night’s at their schools. Walk & Roll Wednesday’s will soon begin at all the schools. There is a Bike Fest planned at the Gilroy Library featuring the City of Gilroy’s first free fix-it bike station on Sept 30, and October 4this International Walk to School Day. El Roble is planning their first Walk & Roll Wednesday for October 4thand I will be leading one of the two bike trains to school. We will be meeting at Uvas Park Dr/3rdSt and making our way down 3rdSt with several stops at the intersections before we make it safely to El Roble Elementary. All the schools will be asking Gilroy Police and Gilroy Fire to get involved with the walking school buses and bike trains. How cool would it be for the kids to get an escort from them to school!
Safe Routes to School are important for our youth today. More children and parents are getting out of the cars for walking, biking, and rolling to school. Just a simple 1-mile of walking each way to school equals 2/3rdof the daily recommended 60 minutes of physical activity. When children access school this way they learn their streets, neighbors, and reduce the traffic congestion around schools.
You can expect to start seeing walking school buses and bike trains. One of the best ways to attract more kids to walk/bike to school is through events at the schools, and then sending home material to the parents. The kid’s become the biggest advocates to letting them walk/bike more and especially to school.
Building a network of Safe Routes to School is something that the City of Gilroy Bicycle Pedestrian Commission Gilroy (BPAC) takes very serious and we advocate for it. Santa Clara County Public Health is a major partner too. They have secured grants for Gilroy Elementary, Middle, and High Schools for the next several years. Santa Clara County’s Measure B will provide funding annually to the City of Gilroy that is allocated for bicycle and pedestrian education. Gilroy Police Department recently received a grant from the Office of Traffic Safety that includes education for bicycle and pedestrians.
Our schools are strategically located and planned for the neighborhoods. It really starts during the development of neighborhoods. It makes a huge impact when advocates encourage developers and planners to put in the biking and pedestrian infrastructure. We should be able to freely get around the neighborhood while connecting to the current walk/bike network and schools. In the past City Staff would present City Council with a section on “transportation to schools” from a development by car. The Gilroy BPAC reached out to the City of Gilroy Planning Department and shared the Safe Routes to School alternative. We are hoping from here on that City Staff present the Safe Routes to School along with transportation via car.
You will be seeing Santa Clara County Public Health, Gilroy BPAC, and volunteers with clipboards around the schools in the morning. They are conducting walk/bike audits, which help prepare suggested Safe Routes to School maps for each individual school. This will be a great feature to hand out to the kids.
The Gilroy BPAC encourages you to nominate someone for our monthly award within Gilroy that strives to make Gilroy a better place in regards to biking and pedestrian activities. Come to one of our meetings on the 4thTuesday of each month 6pm at the City Council Chambers, or email any of us. http://www.cityofgilroy.org/280/Bicycle-Pedestrian-Commission We are constantly advocating for Complete Streets, Safe Routes to School, and bicycle/pedestrian friendly infrastructure.
The youth in our community will shape the future, but its up to us to show them the way. Like Mark Fenton has famously said lets create a community full of “free range children”! If you are looking for ways to get involved then look to the schools that need parent volunteers and join a City of Gilroy Commission. The Parks & Recreation Commission will have two open seats at the end of the year and the Bicycle Pedestrian Commission will have one open seat.