Thursday, October 1, 2009

Palo Alto Walks & Rolls

Penny Ellson, PTA Council Traffic Safety Committee, 856-0736,

City Contact: Kathy Durham, Alternative Commute Coordinator, 329-2568,

Palo Alto Walks & Rolls

For Safer Streets, Healthier Bodies, a Greener Planet

PALO ALTO, CA — On October 5-9, PAUSD students will use alternatives to solo driving to school like walking, biking, skating, riding the bus, and carpooling. They will join children around the world who are celebrating International Walk to School Day which is October 7.

With creativity and a little initiative, many Palo Alto parents and children are finding ways to get themselves and others out of isolated autos and reconnected with the community. Stefan Rosner, an Escondido Elementary School parent and PTA Traffic Safety Representative rides a special tandem bicycle that he calls a “human-powered minivan” or “big yellow taxi” which he can use to carry two of his children to school (this year, his son, now in third grade, generally rides his own bike).

Other parents are investing in wagons, saddlebags, and other bike equipment designed to make bikes more user-friendly for school commuters. Many families have formed “walkpools”—groups of children who walk to school together, allowing parents of younger children to save time by taking turns walking with them. On Walk & Roll day, some Barron Park Elementary School families will walk to school as a group with Miner 49er and Pericles, the donkeys that live adjacent to their neighborhood park.

Walking and biking to school together is fun, but it is also important for developing children. “This event isn‘t just about reducing car trips, it is about preparing the whole child for life. Young children who walk and bike with their parents get to practice safety skills they will need all their lives,” PAUSD school board member Melissa Baten Caswell comments. She adds with a smile, “Use this time to teach your child safety skills and model a healthy, active lifestyle. Enjoy it. Give your child an out of car experience.” Caswell, a long-time supporter of Safe Routes to School programs, encourages families to give alternative school commutes a try.

At schools throughout PAUSD students will join on-campus “Walk & Roll” celebrations with varying activities at each site, including: student-created “Foot Power” collage projects and drawings for prizes, walking school buses, bike trains, and more. All twelve elementary schools and two middle schools are participating.

The City of Palo Alto, Palo Alto Unified School District and the Palo Alto Council of PTAs formed a Safe Routes to School partnership to improve safety for students on their school commutes and encourage more families to use alternatives to driving more often. Palo Alto Mayor Peter Drekmeier notes, “This partnership has been a key factor in reversing the trend toward more students being driven to Palo Alto schools. We sponsor fun community events like Walk & Roll to encourage families to try alternative commutes. We also collaborate year round to engineer safer streets, target police enforcement on school routes and provide traffic safety education for children and parents. The idea is to encourage more people to use alternative modes more often. If they can't do it everyday, try once or twice a week. If they live too far from school, they might try a carpool or public transit. It makes a difference.”

Record Numbers of Palo Alto Students Exercise Foot Power

Many of us remember a time when walking and bicycling to school was a part of everyday life. In 1969, about half of all U. S. students walked or bicycled to school. Today, however, fewer than 15 percent of all school trips are made by walking or bicycling. The story is different in Palo Alto where the number of elementary school children reporting they regularly walked or biked to school has actually increased over the last decade. Bicycle counts at both high schools were at ten-year record highs this month with Gunn reporting 633 bicyclists (33% of students) up from 180 (11% of students) in 1999. Paly’s count was also up from 220 (15%) in 1999 to 582 (32%) this year. That amounts to one third of all PAUSD high school students bicycling to school with many more students walking, taking public transit, and carpooling.

Board Member Caswell asks parents and children to join together to “ help us create a community environment that is friendly to people of all ages who want to use the street safely.”

For information about Safe Routes to School in Palo Alto, visit . For additional information, visit: International Walk to School in the USA, ; National Center for Safe Routes to School, ; International Walk to School,

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