Safe Routes to School – Jim Shanman

IMG00422-20100728-1847Ahh, back to school time. New clothes. New books. New teachers. How about some new habits?

I have a dream. A dream where every child walks, bikes, skates or scoots to school every day. Some with parents, some with friends, some on their own. No cars. No pollution. Lots of healthy, active kids doing better in school because they are arriving at school on time, energized and ready to roll having already socialized with their friends on the way.

It’s a big dream because it’s been maybe 75 years since that existed in LA.

Still, one can keep trying.

I realize that walking and biking to school is challenging for many and driving to school is a fact of life for others, so let me say that when I talk about walking and biking (and skating and scooting too) to school, I don’t necessarily mean door-to-door or even every day. Truly, every day and each block does matter. A lot.

There are many reasons to consider walking or biking to school, among them are reducing traffic and pollution around schools, promoting physical activity and developing greater community awareness. But walking is also such great exercise and so easy too. In fact, some studies have suggested that walking just 20 minutes a day can cut your risk of heart disease by 50%.

So whether it’s once a month, once a week or every day, as long as we all do our part to reduce the door-to-door / every day driving to school, we’re making progress.

For now, I’d like to remind everyone that as we roll out our Safe Routes to School Program, we’re looking forward to more families embracing active transportation, and not driving door-to-door every day. Whether it’s once a month, once a week, carpooling, or even simply parking five blocks away. It all adds up to safer, quieter school zones.

We’ll have more kids walking, biking, skating and scooting to school. So, please keep the following tips in mind:

For walkers and cyclists, know that the first few weeks of school can be rather hectic, so be on the alert for more traffic and more drivers not familiar with the school zone or (in some cases) their new routine. Use extra caution and be sure to stop at all curbs, alleys, and traffic signals. If you’re riding in the street, make sure you stop at stop signs too. And of course, always wear your helmet when biking.

For drivers, please use extra caution around schools. Back out of your driveway slowly and be sure to look for pedestrians and cyclists at the sidewalk (instead of looking for cars at the curb). Drive the speed limit, stop at all stop signs and be patient and on the alert: kids can be unpredictable especially since they don’t develop traffic awareness until around 12.

For parents who drive to school each day, please consider parking five blocks away when you can. It will ease the congestion around the school and you’ll get some extra quality time with your children. It’s easier than you think too and much more enjoyable (and less stressful) than spending time looking for parking and trying to scramble at the curb in front of the school. And if your school has a drop zone, consider this: when you get to the back of the queue of cars, instead of waiting and idling as you make your way to the front, park and walk the remaining 2-4 blocks.

For more safety tips, please visit the Culver City Safe Routes to School website:


Jim Shanman is the Culver City Safe Routes to School Coordinator and founder of Walk ‘n Rollers, a local non-profit whose mission is to encourage more children to walk and bike to school more often and more safely. Walk ‘n Rollers is a Project of LACBC

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