I was amazed today to read a case study from Bear Creek Elementary where the Safe Routes to School Program, in its second year, effectively got 70% of the school’s population to walk or ride their bike to school. 70%! That’s amazing. At Bear Creek, 67% of students live within two miles of the school and there is no bus service for students. In the programs first year alone, they were able to reduce car congestion and traffic by 36%. In fact, the school recently won the Oberstar Award, named after Congressman Oberstar (D-MN) to honor his dedication to the program. What makes this accomplishment even more impressive is that the school is in Boulder, Colorado where kids literally have to walk, ‘up hill in the snow’ to get to school. What’s our excuse? We live in an area where it rains maybe a few weeks a year, it is usually between 60-80 degrees all year round and we don’t have to worry about kids slipping and falling on ice or snow.
What can we take from this story? Well, there is a lot to do here in San Luis Obispo, but we can learn from Bear Creek and try to model some of their successes. What really made the difference at Bear Creek Elementary is:
1. The program tracked the reduction in car-free trips each month by having the students track their trips and miles. This is something that we can easily do by using TripLink. All students or teachers would have to do is log their trips into our simple online trip calendar to see real time reduction in miles and emissions.
2. The school has a year round walking school bus
3. The Principal Kent Cruger at Bear Creek leads by example, walking or riding his bike to school. He also started the Cruger Cup competition, a year-long challenge issued by the principal himself to his students to arrive to school every day without a car. At the beginning of each month, Cruger tries a new mode of transportation (scooter, skateboard, unicycle, ect).
4. Boulder Valley School District designated a SRTS Administrator who works with parents to plan, coordinate and implement walking and biking activities.
5. Boulder Police Department addresses concerns of speeding and STOP infringements in the vicinity of schools.
6. Local businesses such as Albertsons donated prizes for the Walk to School Day processions.
7. The school participates in a “Tour de French” where each class forms a team and records as many car-free trips as possible. Students’ help their teams advance and win different colored arm bands for different categories of trips.
8. On International Walk to School Day the school had a goal of “zero cars in the Bear Creek Lot,” encouraging all staff, faculty and students to leave their car behind. It worked.
9. Bicycle Education is taught in PE classes, called BLAST (Bike Lessons and Safety Training)
We can do this; we just need the community support. As can be seen at Bear Creek, it literally took a village to make it work. If you know anyone who would like to join our village, please let us know. We need a place to start, some champions and a little creativity to make our Safe Routes to School program a success.
To view the case study, visit http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/case_studies/pdfs/CO.bearcreek.pdf.