Winter Newsletter 2023-2024
We are still beaming from the tremendous embrace of Ruby Bridges Day hosted at 42 elementary schools throughout Marin. A huge thank you to our volunteers, principals, and teachers who made record numbers’ possible. Similarly, International Walk and Roll to School Days had jaw-dropping numbers of families walking and rolling to school. We were honored to have the Marin IJ cover both events at Pleasant Valley and Loma Verde schools.
Lots of buddies walked, biked, rode the bus, and carpooled together for increased fun and safety. Read about the Buddy Up contest to learn the winners.
(Photo) Buddy-Up winners from Rancho Elementary)
Our outreach is growing thanks to the collective efforts of so many of you. Let us close this semester by acknowledging the ongoing dedication and partnership of our 58 schools, including middle and high schools. The ripple effectiveness of Safe Routes to Schools is also due to the support from city officials, neighbors, local sustainability groups and many, many more who are committed to bringing healthy and safe travel to all students.
We are one community in this endeavor.
It is an honor to work beside you to serve your children. Thank you for giving us that privilege.
– Gwen Froh,
Program Director, and Marin Safe Routes to Schools Team
With an impressive student turnout at 42 elementary schools, Safe Routes to Schools celebrated its first ever county-wide Ruby Bridges Walk and Roll to School Day on Nov. 15. The event highlighted the significance of Ruby Bridges, a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement during the 1960s.
Ruby Bridges made history as the first African American child to attend an all-white elementary school in New Orleans. At the age of six, she bravely faced hostility not only during her daily walk to class, but also when all her classmates left the school upon her arrival.
“This celebration provides a unique opportunity to teach students about equity and the civil rights movement while making connections between transportation and racial justice in our work,” said Gwen Froh, Safe Routes to Schools Program Director.
Prior to the event, all elementary school room teachers read Ruby’s inspirational story to their students, to foster empathy and encourage them to participate in the event.
Deena Blas, a parent volunteer from Pleasant Valley, said, “Ruby Bridges Walk and Roll to School Day is a call to action to continue our journey to end racism and all forms of bullying in our schools.” Blas also highlighted the environmental benefits of reducing vehicular traffic on the roads. Blas’ school had a turnout of over 200 students proudly waving purple Ruby Bridges Flags. The Marin Independent Journal covered the event at Pleasant Valley. To read the story, click HERE.
Despite unfavorable weather forecasts, schools remained steadfast in holding their event. Loma Verde parent volunteer Kelly Smith remarked, “If Ruby was able to take crowds of yelling people, screaming threats, and getting things thrown at her, we can take a little rain.”
Venetia Valley’s parent volunteer, Heather Crossen, echoed Smith’s sentiment, stating, “Ruby overcame all obstacles in her route to school every day. What’s a little rain to us? Maybe we’ll just have a bad hair day.”
Bahia Vista Elementary reported the participation of approximately 250 students, with San Rafael Police Sergeant Scott Ingels distributing incentives to the walkers and rollers.
The celebration extended beyond Marin County, with the American Automobile Association (AAA) reporting that over 650,000 students nationwide walked in honor of Ruby Bridges.
Follow the rainbow to a healthier planet and less traffic congestion. This spring, Safe Routes will hold a “Rainbow Quest” contest to encourage students to walk, bike, carpool, or bus to school. The spring contest gives students who actively travel to school the chance to participate in a raffle at their school, with prizes provided by Safe Routes. This year’s raffle prizes will be scooters and helmets.
“The contest is a fun way to encourage students to cultivate the habit of walking or riding to school. Once habits are set, kids become walkers and riders for life,” said Monica Leifer, Safe Routes’ bilingual volunteer coordinator.
Schools will hold four weekly events on April 17, April 24, May 1, and May 8 as a lead-up to National Bike to School Day on May 8. On contest days, students who use active modes of transportation or who carpool or bus will get a stamp on their contest card. On May 8, students who show a stamped card will be able to enter the raffle at their school.
The Rainbow Quest contest for 2024 follows last year’s J.E.D.I. contest. Over 3,000 students participated last year.
Other events planned for the spring include Valentine’s Day (February 7), Dr. Seuss Day (March 6), and a Bike Hero contest in May. Bike Heroes are students who bike regularly to school and are nominated for recognition by parents or school administrators.
The 2023 Buddy Up Contest had every age group represented from kindergarteners to high schoolers, fostering a sense of camaraderie and promoting sustainable transportation habits. A total of thirty-eight Buddy Up groups, representing 17 different schools, participated in this heartwarming event that unfolded from October 1 to November 15.
To enter the competition, parents and students nominated groups of students who regularly walk, bike, carpool, or take the bus together. The narratives shared by the participants painted a vivid picture of their journeys to school, with phrases like “they feel stronger together,” “the bigger kids help the younger ones,” “they are chatting all the way,” “there’s fresh air,” “they have a sense of camaraderie,” and “it is fun to be with friends.”
Six outstanding buddy groups emerged as winners, each receiving $50 gift cards to be used for a memorable outing together. Safe Routes to Schools extends its heartfelt thanks to all the parents who contributed nominations and words of encouragement. For a dose of inspiration, you can explore these touching stories on our website at www.saferoutestoschools.org.
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNERS!
- Hidden Valley Elementary, ride bikes daily: Julia (4th grade), Milla (4th grade), Olivia (4th grade)
- Neil Cummins Elementary, walk daily: Henry (3rd grade), Eloise (3rd grade), Natalie (3rd grade)
- Rancho Elementary, ride daily: Amalia (1st grade), Theo, Sol, Alison, Isla, Karol (3rd grade), Wendy (4th grade), Abraham, Haden (5th grade)
- Kent Middle, ride daily: Mary (5th grade), Liv (5th grade), Simone (5th grade)
- Miller Creek Middle, ride daily: Nicholas (6th grade), Charlie (6th grade), James (6th grade), Sidney (6th grade), Jakob (6th grade)
- San Marin High School, carpool daily: Scottie-Marie (9th grade), Parker (9th grade), Gael (9th grade)
The Buddy Up Contest not only celebrates the spirit of togetherness but also recognizes the positive impact of shared commutes on our communities.
“I was really nervous [about falling again],” Danella said, about attending the bike class. Safe Routes to Schools offers a class on bike handling, safety, and equipment to every Marin sixth grader as part of their physical education class. Students who are new to cycling can practice with an instructor in a “Learn to Ride” group at almost any bike class.
Safe Routes instructor Chris Allen took Danella aside to practice balancing, and then peddling, on a bike. It took Danella about two attempts with Chris keeping the bike steady before she started riding on her own. “I learned really fast,” she said happily.
“It makes what I do out here feel so great,” said Chris, who joined Safe Routes this year and is an experienced mountain and BMX rider. “I’ve never seen a happier kid in one of our bike rodeos.”
Danella described the many ways learning to ride has given her confidence. She said she is teaching her five-year-old cousin to ride and that she hopes Christmas this year will include a bike of her own. She is also thinking about riding to school instead of getting driven by her father. “I’m really happy about being able to ride,” she said.
In October, Marin Health & Human Services started tracking e-bike related injuries reported by Marin Emergency Medical Services. Within one month, 71% of bicycle-related crashes needing parametric assistance involved children ages 10 to 19 riding e-bikes. Read the County of Marin Press Release here.
Details are unknown, but we must not assume it was the e-biker’s fault. However, it’s a wake-up call for parents thinking about purchasing an e-bike for their children this holiday season. Speed matters in the severity of injury.
“We fully support getting kids and adults on bikes, including e-bikes, as a healthy and fun way to get around independently,” said Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis. “The message is really about doing it more safely.”
In a presentation for Novato parents, Safe Routes’ Program Director Gwen Froh clarified the varying classes of e-bikes that parents might consider buying. “We have heard parents say they have been hoodwinked into gifting a Class II throttle e-bike to their child. Safe Routes’ goal is to help them make informed decisions by dispelling myths about E-bikes.
Myth 1: Class I e-bikes cannot travel up hills. Not true. One needs to pedal to assist the motor, but hills can be climbed just fine with a little bit of effort. Parents are therefore being pressured into buying a “cooler” Class II throttle e-bike where pedaling is optional.
Myth 2: Class II throttle e-bikes are manufactured to only go 20 mph. Not true either. Many of the moped-type Class II can be altered to go faster than 20 mph and some students say that they know how to do this or have tried.
Myth 3: CA law does not have age restriction on Class I or II e-bikes, so kids of all ages can ride them. If a student is unable to ride a non-motorized bike that averages 10 mph for their age bracket, then students should not be allowed to ride an e-bike that travels twice as fast, takes longer to stop, and is harder to maneuver. Class III is illegal for students under 16.
What about passengers? A passenger makes an e-bike heavier and harder to stop and maneuver. Passengers should use seats designed for them, follow the manufacturer’s limit and wear helmets for safety.
Students have been reported riding popular brands such as Super 73 which can be switched to an “off road” mode to exceed 28 mph. As such, these are dangerous and illegal on roads and pathways. The manufacturer does not recommend them for children under 16 years old.
According to Froh, Safe Routes’ educators have always told parents that they must determine if their child is road-ride-ready; They bear the financial, legal and moral responsibility for what can happen. For this reason, they need to evaluate their students’ ability to drive any device – a bicycle, scooter, e-bike, e-scooter, and ultimately a car. It is imperative that parents are aware of their child’s ability to stand up to peer pressure and ensure their student is properly trained to navigate the nuances of riding the streets.
Additional Parent Resources:
Safe Routes to Schools Parent E-bike Info flyer
(assessment for determining if student is ready to ride an e-bike)
Marin County Bicycle Coalition E-bike Buyers Guide
(includes brands that are recommended)
Electric Bicycle Safety and Training Program, California Highway Patrol
(on-line, interactive education tutorial)
League of American Bicyclist E-Bike Guide To Safe Riding (informational and educational videos)
- Track your students’ speed: The Life360 app allows you to see how fast your student is driving their bike or car.
- Protect your student’s head! E-bikers are recommended to wear a helmet with a Dutch NTA-8776 certification. Helmets with this certification pass a higher drop test to dissipate energy in crashes at higher speeds.
- Make your student seen! Lights on the front and back of e-bikes should be on at all times. Bright clothing will help other drivers see them on the roads.
Safe Routes delivered the ‘Stop, Look and Listen’ curriculum, which includes a walking field trip. In 15 separate classes, students watched a video about children helping each other make difficult decisions on when and how to cross a street. Safe Routes instructors then led each class on a “Walk Around the Block,” so students could practice what they learned about awareness, driveways, and parked cars.
The need for this marathonic teaching was made clear in April 2023, when the family center from Bahia Vista contacted Safe Routes to express their worry about many children dashing alone across Bahia way without even checking for passing traffic.
Safe Routes worked with school administrators to bring all interested parties together. The community expressed serious concerns at two very well-attended meetings. They conveyed their frustration about fellow parents who speed in front of the school, double park, and even drop off students in the middle of the street.
At that point, it was clear that education for safe travel was critical. Also, a walk audit was conducted to look for possible solutions regarding the infrastructure around campus. Very quickly, traffic engineers from Parametrix proposed a new pedestrian crossing and additional signage along Bahia Way. Safe Routes to Schools is currently looking for funding to implement these projects.
It has been eight years since Deb Hubsmith’s passing at the age of 46, but her footprint on this world is proving indeleble. Her memoir, The Wind at Her Back, just released in October 2023 describes how in 1999, Hubsmith started Safe Routes to Schools with her friend Wendi Kallins, who still works for the organization as the Task Force Coordinator. Hubsmith also launched the Marin County Bicycle Coalition.
Hubsmith’s memoir, authored by her husband, Andy Peri, and one of her best friends, Amity Hotchkiss, recounts how she contributed to change the landscape of human-powered transportation in Marin County and eventually, in the rest of the U.S.
Through Hubsmith’s never-take-no-for-an-answer attitude, Safe Routes to Schools turned into a national organization by securing funding from Congress. “She would convince people with a combination of grace, encyclopedic knowledge, and a tenacity that wouldn’t quit,” said Kallins. She adds that Husbmith worked very hard to find support from all parties involved in infrastructure projects in Marin.
The memoir recounts her remarkable life including her tragic death from Leukemia. This is a biography of a woman who immersed herself in nature, inspired by her love of planet Earth, for which she had a deep reverence and fierce dedication.
In the book’s foreword, U.S. Congressman Jared Hoffman says, “Throughout my years in the California State Assembly, Deb was my go-to authority for anything bike or alternative transportation-related…With this intimate accounting of her life, Andy and Amity share Deb’s remarkable and contagious devotion to this planet and its people.”
A copy of the book can be found at https://pagepublishing.com/books/?book=the-wind-at-her-back-the-life-of-transportation-visionary-deb-a-hubsmith
A Facebook page with a list of events is here: https://www.facebook.com/people/Deb-Hubsmith-Book/6155174766531
- Kentfield – Thursday, January 11, 2024 at 9:30 AM
- Ross Valley – Friday, January 12 at 10:00 AM
- Novato – Wednesday, January 17 at 5:00 PM
- Sausalito-Marin City – Thursday, January 18 at 5:00 PM
- Ross – Monday, January 22 at 10:00 AM
- San Rafael – Wednesday, January 24 at 5:00 PM
- Reed – Thursday, January 25 at 10:00 AM
- Miller Creek – Monday, January 29 at 3:30 PM
- Mill Valley – Thursday, February 1 at 9:30 AM
- West Marin – Tuesday, February 6 at 5:00 PM
- Larkspur-Corte Madera – Thursday, February 8 at 5:00 PM
Contact if you are interested in joining a task force or if you would like a copy of archived task force meeting notes.
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