Marin has been a national leader in promoting students walking and biking to school
Walking, cycling, and commuting on school buses were once an American tradition and an important part of free public education. By year 2000, most parents drove their children to and from school–many one student per car. The most common reasons for driving children to school have been longer distances to schools and traffic-related danger.
Last year (2016), over 14,000 Marin school students “traveled green” to school each day: walking, biking, taking buses, or carpooling. This accounts for about half the students, from elementary through high school.
Safe Routes to School
Safe Routes to School (SR2S) is the Marin County program that encourages children (and their parents) to walk or bike to school. It began in year 2000 with a two-year grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The successful pilot programs in Marin and in Arlington, Mass. led to the 2005, SAFETEA-LU federal transportation bill which provided $612 million for the national Safe Routes to Schools program that applies to all 50 states.
Marin SR2S is now funded by the Marin Transportation Sales Tax if 1/2 % (passed by voters in 2004), a $10 vehicle registration fee (approved by voters in 2010), Marin’s cities, and numerous grants.
The benefits of SR2S
- Health: Students on foot or bicycles have more physical activity, reducing their risk of health issues, and improving their overall health. Healthier children miss fewer days of school.
- Learning: When students exercise before school, they arrive focused and ready to learn.
- Safety for the Community: SR2S infrastructure improvements allow everyone – including children, older adults, and people with disabilities – to walk and bicycle more safely.
- Environment: Fewer car trips means less air pollution.
- Traffic Congestion: Walking or riding a bike to school reduces traffic congestion, making life in Marin more enjoyable for all. This is a major issue on many streets in Marin before and after school; for example, Tiburon Blvd, East Blithedale Ave, and Sir Frances Drake Blvd,
Making SR2S work
The Safe Routes to School program has the support of most Marin cities, police departments, and community organizations. The program is administered by the Transportation Authority of Marin, which maintains an informative web site. There are many parts to this program, including:
- Educating students and communities to the health and environmental benefits of SR2S, plus the ways to use safe routes.
- Crossing guards at 70 intersections along major roads serving schools.
- Safety improvements, including sidewalk improvements, safer crosswalks and crossings, bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, and speed reduction measures.
To learn about the many parts of the SR2S program and the people who make it work, we recommend the 2016 report, “Safe Routes to School, Project Evaluation.”