Crescent City motorists should be extra careful as Bess Maxwell and Joe Hamilton elementary students pound the pavement or ride their bikes to school on Wednesday.
Roughly 520 students from both schools will walk to school along with their parents, teachers and community leaders. Local leaders joining the event include School Board member Judie Cordts, Del Norte County Sheriff candidate Jim Maready, Crescent City Council members Ron Gastineau and Kathryn Murray and County Supervisor Roger Gitlin.
“This is our third year of walking and biking to school,” said Karen Phillips, Safe Routes to School champion. “We’re trying to get walking and biking to be a more normal thing for families and children to do. We’ll be doing some other events later to make it more of a weekly event versus an every six months event.”
Walk and Bike to School Day focuses on pedestrian safety, traffic congestion and concern for the environment, according to a Safe Routes to School press release. It also focuses on increasing physical activity in children.
Safe Routes to School partners include the Del Norte County Unified School District, the Del Norte Local Transportation Commission, the county Department of Health and Human Services, the California Endowment and local law enforcement.
Last year’s event focused on all the county schools, Phillips said. This year, Safe Routes to School narrowed its target because participants felt that Bess Maxwell and Joe Hamilton have more “walkability” than many of the county’s other elementary schools. More students live within a half mile of those schools, Phillips said.
Phillips said the program conducted a parent survey last year that showed the No. 1 challenge for walking to school is the weather. Another challenge for many students is the distance from school, high traffic speeds and other neighborhood safety concerns, she said.
“We’re working with local law enforcement and the Transportation Commission to help bring about change with regard to traffic flows, safety and (other) traffic measures,” Phillips said. “The school district is participating with that.”
Kids, parents and community leaders will set off from their homes at about 7:20 a.m. on Wednesday. Walkers and cyclists are expected to arrive at school before 7:50 a.m. The event will include visits from Rescue Raccoon and ChiPper the Chipmunk, the California Highway Patrol’s mascot.
Phillips said Safe Routes to Schools will continue encouraging students to hoof it or cycle to school next month. The organization will hold cycling and pedestrian skills events on June 6 and June 10 that will include a bicycle course and a lecture series with guest speakers and mascots.
“That’ll be more of a concerted effort at the schools to give them educational materials, walking tips and info about how to safely walk to schools,” she said. “We will (also) be giving away 17 bicycles and 17 helmets at the end of those two events.”
Safe Routes to School will also roll out a weekly walk-to-school program starting next fall, Phillips said.
For more information, visit www.walkbiketoschool.org or the National Center for Safe Routes to School at www.