Safe Routes Newsletter

SUMMER 2021

Keep on Moving Marin!



As this tumultuous year winds down, it is an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going, including the decisions we make for our children’s future.

First, it’s important to acknowledge the massive effort made to prioritize the safe arrival onto campus for children, whereby new policies and procedures allowing for physical distancing were created.  Reducing traffic and student congestion in drop-off zones was no small feat.  In addition to staggered start times, the County Office of Education encouraged schools to use multiple entry points onto campus.  Remote “park and walk” locations were identified.  New route maps showing school access points were created.  Additional bike racks were purchased and located at various spots on campus to provide additional parking for the recent uptick in biking, particularly where bus service was reduced or eliminated.  Countless hours were spent by school administrators and volunteers to provide the safest, surest way for students to get to and from school. 

As organized sports had to take a back seat amid a pandemic which also cooped up children behind screens, walking and biking became a welcomed relief, and continued when in-person classes resumed.  For many children, it was their primary exercise.

New “green travel” habits have been formed.  But will they last?  Will businesses continue to allow for telecommuting so busy working parents might have time to walk or bike their student to school?  Will parents continue to nurture their environmental ambassadors to “go green” by using their own power?

None of us would like to see a repeat of this past year, but perhaps we can agree on a few silver linings - specifically, the creativity and resiliency of our school communities.  None of it was easy, but the modifications had to be done, and Marin schools gallantly rose to the challenge. 

The climate crisis is here.  Our children’s future is on the line.  Will we rise to the challenge with the same dogged determination?  Though walking and biking alone is not enough to solve the crisis, it teaches our young advocates to help do their part, to have a sense of agency in the cause. Active and shared (carpooling and bus) travel to school can help children feel they are contributing to the solution.  These actions can instill a sense of hope in our youth who are desperate to make a difference.  No doubt, some of the brightest and most influential future leaders will come from our own county, and one day, these visionaries may help to craft the policies to determine substantial environmental outcomes.

So let’s keep moving Marin toward this next challenge with a sense of urgency and commitment. Next fall, when decisions are to be made to “go back to normal,” Marin families will be able to decide what that is.  If any benefit came out of the pandemic, it’s the know-how to pivot and move in the direction to meet the needs of our collective good.



2021 Marin Bike Hero Award

 


Marin Safe Routes to Schools is proud to announce the 2021 Bike Hero Award winners!  Congratulations to Calvin Nuessle from Manor Elementary and Matias Fano from Hidden Valley. The middle school winners were Jay Pikkarainen-Klein from White Hill and Lucia Brignetti from Miller Creek.

Thank you principals, teachers, family liaisons, parents, aunts and uncles, for nominating your favorite bike hero. There were many outstanding “roll models” who were nominated; the decision was extremely difficult to pick just four.  Here’s what was said about the winners:

Lucia deserves to be a Bike Hero for her infectious love of bicycling. Lucia is a positive and motivated bicycle advocate, enjoying rides with friends and new riders on both the road and trail. She wakes up early every morning to ride her bike to her friend’s house to motivate her friend to ride. They then ride 2.7 miles to school while obeying all rules of the road. She is also an active member and responsible ride leader of Miller Creek’s Mountain Bike Club, and was the 6th grade girls first place champion! Lucia is very much deserving of the Bike to School Hero recognition, both as an active and motivating commuter to school, and as an inspiring advocate during social, training and competitive rides.” (Miller Creek Middle School)

“Since Jay returned to in-person classes, he has ridden his bike to and from school every day (except when he helped drop off bubbly water for his teachers). He makes it on time to band in the morning and then picks up his scootering little sister (and sometimes his two biking cousins) at Manor before he makes his way home with his entourage. Jay is leading the way in his family of kids, showing them that hopping on your bike in the morning, with a smile on your face, is a great way to get to school. He rides by our house to get to school and waves and smiles at his cousins as he heads past. We are so impressed with his great attitude and spirit!” (White Hill MiddleSchool, 6th grade)

Calvin deserves to be a BIKE HERO because he rides his bike to school every day and always is the first to arrive at school. Calvin inspires others to bike to school and get there early so they can play basketball and get their jiggles out before the first bell. Most importantly, I see him helping younger students lock their bikes or helping them cross busy Sir Francis Drake. He arrives at school in a good mood and ready to seize the day; I believe that is from a healthy dose of fresh air on the way to school!”  (Manor Elementary, 5th grade)

Matias began riding to and from school on his own as soon as school reopened full-time. For International Bike-to-School Day, we wanted his little sister, age 7, to be able to ride as well (she had never ridden to school before). We asked Matias and our neighbor, a fellow 5th grader, to create a bike train for Eliana with Matias in the lead for the two miles each way. Even though Matias can ride much faster, he has been diligently leading Eliana to and from school ever since, helping her up when she fell off the curb, and guiding her on how to be safe with all the cars on the road. Recently another neighbor couldn't, at the last minute, ride with her 2nd grade daughter and asked if Matias could ride with the girl as well because he is so conscientious when riding with his younger sister.  Recollecting all the comments from the neighborhood parents about how responsible Matias has been, I knew he deserved to be nominated as a true Bike Hero. (Hidden Valley, 5 grade)

The winners will receive a $50.00 gift certificate to a local store of choice.  All nominees will receive a small gift from Safe Routes to Schools.  These students are stellar ambassadors in our community who share their joy and responsibility of cycling.  



Profiles in Dedication - Safe Routes Volunteers


Save the Date:  Parent Volunteer Luncheon (Elementary) - August 24, 10:30 - 12:00




The children will undoubtedly cherish a return to Walk and Roll Wednesday and other events next fall.  Please contact Gwen@marinbike.org to join our team.

Volunteers are the capstone of the Safe Routes to Schools program.  Administrators, teachers, students, and especially parent volunteers at elementary school sites, work tirelessly to encourage safe “green travel.”  Why? The answer to this question varies.  Some say traffic reduction provides safe access to school, creating a calm, inviting arrival onto campus for all students. Others claim walking and rolling to school improves children's health, particularly as it energizes the brain for learning.  “The environment” is a reason that is commonly given, along with fostering independence in childhood development. Creating a sense of community is the prime, inherent reward expressed by our volunteers, seeing the thrill on the faces of students and families when they are part of a collective movement, such as a walking school bus or bike train, or when they arrive at the Safe Routes welcome tables to get a small “thank you” treat. 

In addition to the collective 350 morning encouragement events hosted annually in Marin, our dedicated volunteers attend Safe Routes Task Force meetings to give input on local needs for safe routes to schools. 

“The parent volunteers are the eyes and ears of their school community; they know best what routes students actually walk and bike to school and where crossing guards and infrastructure improvements are needed,” said Wendi Kallins, Task Force Coordinator. 

Safe Routes volunteers are truly admirable, often finding a passionate need that compels them go an extra mile with their dedication.  One such volunteer is Erin Hill who served as a Safe Routes Volunteer for 5 years. 



Thank you, Erin Hill, Parent Volunteer - Hidden Valley Elementary School


Safe Routes to Schools and the County of Marin (specifically Supervisor Rice’s office!) wishes to acknowledge Erin Hill for her years of dedicated leadership, providing encouragement events and increased safety awareness to the families and community of Hidden Valley School.  Over the years, Erin and her two children inspired children to walk and roll to school, cheerfully greeting children at morning welcome tables for events such as International Walk to School Day, the Green Sneaker Challenge, and Walk and Roll Wednesdays.

Going “above and beyond,” Erin’s community leadership included collaborating with her school and neighbors to focus on increased safety along routes to schools.  Working with teachers and children, Erin helped put on an all-school assembly, having student performers “teach” peers about safely and respectfully arriving to campus by foot, bike or car.  Additionally, Erin has been a key member of the Butterfield Corridor Safe Streets committee and helped launch a safety campaign called Eyes Up.  The campaign focused on driver safety including signage and messaging to keep “Eyes Up” and “Slow Down.”

During COVID, Erin spent many hours meeting with a special safety subcommittee to brainstorm and execute ways for kids to walk and bike to school while staying physically distanced.  She was instrumental in creating the plan that is in place today for dropping off and picking up students.

“I have loved being a Safe Routes leader at Hidden Valley. The best part was engaging the kids on a personal level and teaching them safety skills. I genuinely feel like some of the traffic safety lessons I taught the kids will stick with them as they grow up and move on to middle school. I am grateful to have had the opportunity!”

As Erin moves on from her leadership position she has already began mentoring her replacement.  Thank you, Erin, on behalf of our entire community for all your inspirational support of children over the years by encouraging healthy and safe travel to and from school.   You have made a difference!

To join our team of Safe Routes volunteers, please contact gwen@marinbike.org



 

Safe Routes Back to Teaching
In-Person Classes!



When the pandemic closed schools for the foreseeable future last March, Safe Routes had to pivot to an online format to continue offering pedestrian and bicycle safety instruction.  Just like the schools, this was a foreign world to us and the learning curve was remarkably steep.  How would we teach traffic safety to a bunch of little boxes on the computer screen?  Not wanting our students to fall behind on receiving this important information, our staff worked tirelessly to make it work and created all kinds of recorded videos and virtual content that were both fun and interactive.  Many schools shared our newly created curriculum with their students, and we were eventually able to begin offering “live” virtual classes over Zoom.  While this was far from ideal, it made sure that kids were receiving our education, especially at a time when outdoor activities like walking and biking were booming.

After more than a year of navigating student Zoom fatigue and teaching traffic skills through a computer screen, Safe Routes delivered its first in person class of 2021 at Hidden Valley Elementary on Friday, April 23rd.  The blacktop was beautifully chalked, the sun was out, the air was crisp, and the 4th grade students were beyond excited to hop on their bikes and participate in our Bike Rodeo.  With several fun courses that included roundabouts, navigating obstacles, rules of the road with stop signs and crosswalks, and a teeter totter to bike up and over, students were finally able to receive our education as it was intended once again.

Since that glorious Friday, our schedule has been packed with in-person Walk Around the Block classes for 2nd graders and Bike Rodeos for 4th-6th graders.  We’ve been to Old Mill Elementary, Tam Valley Elementary, Miller Creek Middle, Strawberry Elementary, Park Elementary, and Bel Aire Elementary over the past few weeks.  In the final weeks left in the school year, we’ll be visiting Del Mar Middle and Manor Elementary before that final bell of the summer rings.  We’re extremely grateful that things are beginning to look up once again.

We also wanted to extend a huge THANK YOU to our amazing teachers who have made it work this year, with the incredible support of their school administrations.  For those schools, teachers, and students that we did not get to visit this year, we look forward to seeing you in the fall!