Investments in Safe Routes for Students and Residents

January 4, 2017
by Francie Stefan

Santa Monica is a diverse city of neighborhoods, boulevards, commercial areas, parks, and many more destinations. While distinctly local in character, Santa Monica is a part of the busy, urban core of west Los Angeles where dense traffic mixes with people walking, biking, and taking transit. Our vibrant city includes schools located on busy streets, which may present safety challenges for students, families, school staff, and the community overall. The health and safety of students and school staff is a top priority for the City and Santa Monica-Malibu School District. Because of this, the Santa Monica City Council and SMMUSD have strategically invested in measures to improve safe routes to school. 

Collisions of all kinds are serious incidents whenever they occur. This week, an article was published about a recent report from Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, a personal injury law firm with offices in west Los Angeles, chronicling accident reports that occurred within a half mile of 6,000 California schools (there are more than 10,000 overall).

The report used the SWITRS database – the reputable statewide incident reporting system – to identify school areas with the highest number of vehicle, pedestrian, and bike collisions. McKinley Elementary and John Muir/SMASH are in the top 400, of the schools evaluated. The SWITRS database for Santa Monica shows 938 crashes for 2015. Three walking and three biking crashes involved a person 16 or under. Half of all the incidents occurred after 8 p.m., well outside of school hours. The City regularly evaluates local and SWITRS data, recently evaluating 12 years of data to create the Pedestrian Action Plan. 

Students are walking and biking to school in increasing numbers. This helps kids be ready to learn and to adopt active habits that will serve them for a lifetime. In 2014, the City Council created a Safe Routes to School program that includes events and physical improvements. This move built on the inspiring leadership of Samohi students who created the first Bike It! Walk It! events in 2007.

Much is in store for Safe Routes to School. Expansion of Bike It! Walk It! continues as it includes Bus It! Skate It! to adopt student preferences. This is the first school year for students to enjoy new Samohi bike lanes, signalized crossings, and Michigan/7th as a one-way street, to name a few. Upgrades to Edison Language Academy will start construction in 2017.  Safe Routes will bring special events and learning opportunities to five schools in 2017-18 with grant funds to expand student engagement. Council-funded physical improvements will start to be installed at Lincoln and John Adams middle schools as well as Franklin and Roosevelt elementary schools.

We will begin installing 15 miles per hour zones this year, a measure made possible by a new state law. This will reduce speeds in school zones by ten miles per hour. Another example of our longtime commitment to school zone safety is crossing guards. Santa Monica Police Department oversees a trained group of dedicated guards at many school sites, including McKinley Elementary and John Muir/SMASH.

Concerns raised by this survey provide another reminder about how parents and community members should obey all traffic laws and drive responsibly around schools. 

Creating safe walking and biking routes is part of our DNA in Santa Monica – especially when it comes to schools and our beloved parks and social spaces. Our continued efforts can reduce injuries to people in crashes by calming speeds, creating comfortable and protected places to walk and bike, and encouraging people to be part of the movement for a more active and connected community. Are you ready to help create safer ways for your friends and family to get around Santa Monica? Be part of GoSaMo to show your support for Santa Monica mobility, and get involved in your school’s Bike it! Walk it! Bus it! Skate it! events.

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