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Santa Clara and SCUSD Partner to Give Students Safer Routes to School

Walking to school just got a little bit safer and healthier for Santa Clara students.

The City of Santa Clara in conjunction with Santa Clara Unified School District rolled out Phase Two of its Safe Routes to School Program on Nov. 29.

The program, funded by a federal grant through the Vehicle Emissions Reductions Based at Schools (VERBS) program, encourages students to walk or ride their bikes to school through Encouragement, Enforcement, Engineering, Education and Evaluation, or the program’s five E’s.

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“This is the second $500,000 grant the City has been awarded,” said Marshall Johnson, a civil engineer with the City who is managing the project. “The first grant, which was awarded about six years ago, funded the first phase of Safe Routes to School and involved seven Santa Clara Unified District schools in the City of Santa Clara.”

The first phase, which began this fall, included Bowers, Briarwood, Haman, Montague, Scott Lane and Sutter elementary schools, and Cabrillo Middle School. During the second phase, Bracher, Hughes, Washington Open and Westwood elementary schools, as well as Don Callejon were added.

The Phase Two kicked off at Westwood Elementary School last Friday with students demonstrating safe traffic behaviors in a mock city course. New, safer route maps will be developed for the five newly added schools and existing maps will be reviewed for the pilot schools as part of Phase Two of the program. Additionally, curriculum on pedestrian and bicycle safety, parent and teacher training and a toolkit for parents, teachers and school administrators will be implemented. The program also includes events such as bicycle and pedestrian rodeos, helmet fittings, monthly award programs and promotional activities to increase community-wide education and awareness, as well as identifying improvements that can be made to existing infrastructure.

“The Safe Routes to School program is a sustainability effort by the City of Santa Clara to improve the health and well-being of our youth,” said Mayor Lisa Gillmor. “The program will emphasize the importance of reducing traffic and air pollution in the vicinity of schools to both parents and students … We are excited to continue this partnership with the Santa Clara Unified School District to encourage a healthy, safer and active lifestyle from an early age.”

Thirty years ago, more than 66 percent of children and teens walked or biked to school, giving young people a sense of freedom and responsibility, while allowing them to enjoy the outdoors. Walking to school provides students the opportunity to get to know their neighborhood. Currently, only 13 percent of children nationwide walk or bike to school. Santa Clara’s Safe Routes to School program integrates health, fitness, traffic relief, environmental awareness, and safety.

According to Johnson, the City has seen some success with the program thus far. “We did see increases in the number of kids walking or riding to school as a result of the first phase, but we realize that an important aspect of these types of programs is sustainability,” he said. “There have been some changes to the funding source, which will reduce the potential funds available to the City in the future for this type of program making sustainability even more critical for success.”

Visit www.sccgov.org/sites/phd/hi/trafsafe/Pages/saferoutes.aspx for more information.

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