News

A safe, car-free route to school

New program maps out best ways to get to MV schools

A typical commute to school can be a hectic scene. Parents, often on a tight schedule, swerve through traffic two minutes before class so they can double or triple-park and send their kids to school just in time to head to work. Drivers plow right through intersections and crosswalks at pick-up and drop-off times everyday across elementary schools in Mountain View.

And while the kids might make it to class before the bell rings, this all happens at the cost of child safety, according to leaders of a traffic safety group in Mountain View.

"It's like trying to cross 880 at the busiest time of day," said Pat Hines, founder and executive director of Safe Moves, a non-profit organization dedicated to traffic safety education.

That's why Hines, working with the Vehicle Emissions Reductions Based at Schools Program (VERBS), developed maps to show parents the safest routes their kids can walk or bike to school, including the location of cross walks, stop signs, and stop lights.

Hines said they walked and biked every possible route to schools across the city for months to develop the maps, Monday through Friday in good and bad weather, and took into account traffic at intersections and the number of trucks on the road. The maps were reviewed by the Mountain View Police Department, parents, and a city engineer.

While the maps are a result of rigorous testing, Hines said they will continue to change, and should be updated as routes change with construction and development. At the Mountain View Whisman School District board meeting, she told parents to take part in the map-making process and take the routes themselves.

"It is a work in progress. We want to be receptive to new changes and new traffic patterns as development continues in the city of Mountain View," Hines said.

The map will be available online and in hard copy in English, Spanish and other languages, and will also be on the Mountain View Police Department website. Hines said she plans to hang large, "oversized" printed maps in school offices across the district for parents to come in, look at the routes and make suggestions.

"We're really proud of the maps. We hope that it gives parents some confidence to let their children walk and ride their bikes to school, and be a part of the community again," Hines said.

Hines said the program has worked closely with the Mountain View Police Department in the effort to beef up traffic safety around schools. This week the police department is participating in "Operation Safe Passage" 2014, a week-long campaign where police focus on increased traffic enforcement around schools during pick-up and drop-off hours.

The police department website will also have safety tips for drivers as well as students who walk home from school. Operation Safe Passage runs from Monday, April 21, through Friday, April 25.

Hines said these kinds of campaigns are effective for public outreach, and notifying the public that law enforcement is watching can curb poor driving habits. The Mountain View Police Department is dedicated to safety around schools, she said.

The maps for safe routes to school and the traffic enforcement are just two of the ways Hines and the "VERBS" program are encouraging parents and students to bike or walk to school instead of driving, which would cut down on the number of cars during pick-up and drop-off times and reduce the risk of collisions. Hines said there's safety in numbers when it comes to kids' commute -- the more kids that walk and bike to school, the safer it will be for them.

Hines said one of the biggest reasons parents drive their kids to school is because everything turns into a time crunch in the morning, and there's such a rush to get kids to school on time that there's no window of opportunity to bike or walk to school. Often the most crowded, scary time to commute to school is the four or five minutes before the bell rings.

Hines said the solution is a behavioral change. She said parents need to leave a 15 to 20 minute window to get to school, and make a concerted effort the night before to get things ready ahead of time to eliminate crunch time.

May 7 is the official Bike to School Day, but Hines said schools in Mountain View will be celebrating during the entire month of May. Schools will choose different days to designate their own "Bike to School Day," and the class at each school with the most bicyclists will be rewarded with a party with treats from a bike-powered smoothie machine.

Other events include the "Anything But a Car Day," at Graham Middle School on May 13, a self-explanatory event.

Map links:

Bubb

Castro

Crittenden

Graham

Huff

Landels

Monta Loma

Stevenson

Theuerkauf

Los Altos High School

Mt. View High School

Alta Vista

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Vince
a resident of another community
on Apr 25, 2014 at 9:35 am

how about charging drivers to drive their kids to school by requiring a permit? use the money to increase traffic enforcement during times around school openings and closing. make the cost of the permit inversely-proportional to how far away the driver lives from the school so that if you live close and are simply too lazy to walk/bike, you pay a lot more. waive the permit requirement on days when the weather is really bad (my daughter and I biked the 1.2 miles to her school today despite the light rain)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Well...
a resident of Bailey Park
on Apr 25, 2014 at 10:14 am

Vince, it would be impossible to enforce. "I'm not driving her to school, I'm driving her to her friend's house who lives 3 doors from school. From there she will walk."

I'm sure there would be plenty of exceptions and loopholes to plug which would create a bureaucratic nightmare. Add to that the collection and management of funds, and you can see how it would all spiral into an unmanageable waste of money. Anything more restrictive would start to infringe on constitutional rights. You cannot charge only certain people for driving into areas freely accessible by others.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Links Please
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 25, 2014 at 11:26 am

Please provide a link to the maps. MVPD website has not published links to the maps.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 25, 2014 at 12:08 pm

One technique that other cities successfully use is a strict 15mph speed limit on bicycle routes leading to public schools. Is this being considered in Mountain View? The police can only do so much if our streets are unsafe to begin with.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Andrea Gemmet
Mountain View Voice Editor
on Apr 25, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

@LinksPlease: We've had some trouble getting the links to work consistently, but hopefully these will behave:

Bubb - Web Link
Castro - Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Andrea Gemmet
Mountain View Voice Editor
on Apr 25, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

And for:
Crittenden - Web Link
Graham - Web Link
Huff - Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Andrea Gemmet
Mountain View Voice Editor
on Apr 25, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

And the rest of the elementary schools:

Landels - Web Link
Monta Loma - Web Link
Stevenson - Web Link
Theuerkauf - Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Andrea Gemmet
Mountain View Voice Editor
on Apr 25, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

Last but not least, the high schools:

Los Altos High School - Web Link
Mt. View High School - Web Link
Alta Vista = Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 25, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Most parents will say that they don't let their children walk or ride their bikes to school because there is too much traffic and they fear for their child's safety. So they continue to drive them.

Anyone else here see the problem with this logic?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bikes2work
a resident of The Crossings
on Apr 25, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Once again, the 1,000 Mountain View kids who are part of Los Altos School District (LASD) are forgotten with respect to "Safe Routes to School". Los Altos ignores them, and Mountain View ignores them. Many of these kids have to cross El Camino, and many of them have to cross San Antonio to bike, walk, or scoot to school. Some of them have been assigned to Covington Elementary that is about 4 miles away from their homes. Almost none of the Covington kids bike to school, but I do know one dad who regularly uses a trail-a-bike to get his kindergartner to and from Covington.

Everyday, my 12-year old bikes himself along Showers Drive past the busy driveways for Walmart and Target and crosses El Camino and eventually San Antonio. Only San Antonio at Portola has a crossing guard. His older brother (a freshman at Los Altos High) was hit by a car at El Camino in front of Whole Foods a few months ago. Fortunately he wasn't hurt. The light changed on him while he was crossing, and a vehicle that was just starting to move knocked him down.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mark Roberts
a resident of another community
on Apr 25, 2014 at 10:05 pm

Do you have a map for St. Joseph's?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Elaine
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 26, 2014 at 7:17 am

I've commuted by bike to various jobs over 15+ years. By far the most treacherous part of my commutes is the area in front of elementary, middle, and high schools during the morning rush. The article addresses the kids trying to get to school, rightly so. What's not addressed is the impact on adult bike commuters of the kill-zone in front of school campuses. I've had many close calls there.


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