One of the main reasons parents offer for driving their children to school is fear of the traffic and safety hazards their children would face were they to walk or bike on a regular basis.
Last spring, the city of Davis undertook a comprehensive effort to locate and begin eliminating those barriers by conducting walk-and-bike safety audits at each Davis public elementary and junior high school.
Conducted between April and June, the audits featured dozens of volunteers fanning out around each campus to observe students arriving at school. Participants included members of the school district leadership team, city of Davis staff and interns, Davis Police Department representatives, members of Davis Bicycles! and school principals, parents, students and other community volunteers.
Following the audits, participants gathered to report what they’d observed — where the unsafe crossings were and where additional traffic signage was needed.
The audits were conducted with the support of Alta Planning+Design, which then produced draft reports that were made available to the public during community meetings last spring as well as online. Feedback provided in person and online then was reviewed by city engineers, staff and the project team.
Results of this process were analyzed by Alta, with the support of transportation engineer David Parisi, who specializes in Safe Routes to School, and site improvements and recommendations were made based on the unique information gathered at each school site.
The city of Davis Walk & Bike Audit Report was completed in March, including one chapter for each school identifying challenges, recommended improvements, associated costs, responsible agencies and possible sources of funding.
Additionally, new Suggested Routes to School maps were created with travel and safety tips for each school in both English and Spanish. The project was funded by a Caltrans Safe Routes to School grant awarded to the city in October 2011. Thanks to printing costs being underwritten by the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District, each student will be able to take home a map for his or her school.
The maps feature numerous routes for each school, complete with the average time it takes to walk or bike the route; where traffic signs and signals are; and where crossing guards are. Davis High School does not have its own map but is featured on the maps of surrounding elementary schools.
“Same with private schools,” said Rachel Hartsough, Street Smarts program manager.
For example, students at both St. James School and Davis High could use the North Davis Elementary School map to find suggested routes.
Hartsough hopes the community will make good use of the maps.
“There is safety in numbers,” she noted. “The more people who use the suggested routes … the more it will establish those routes as comfortable for parents and students.”
The audits were the first step in a longer-term plan to implement safety improvements around Davis schools, Hartsough said.
Strategies developed through the audits will be incorporated into other transportation planning documents and, as funding becomes available, the city of Davis plans to implement school and city improvements, she explained.
Complete project information can be found at http://saferoutesdavis.org or visit http://www.street- smarts.cityofdavis.org for more information on local bicycle/pedestrian/driver safety education and programs.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at email@example.com or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy