Barriers to walking to school?


Tomorrow, for International Walk to School Day, tens of thousands of kids at more than 50 schools in Alameda County will walk or ride their bikes to class.

(Left: Roosevelt Middle School children at an after-school bike club, Cycles of Change)

I’m sure everyone feels good about the one-day event, but what do you think needs to happen for more children to walk or ride their bikes to school on a regular basis?

I hear stories about kids being bullied on their way to and from school — safety could be a factor. In other cases, maybe it’s just easier for working parents to drop their children off on their way to work, if they drive. It also could be that a lot of kids attend schools far from their neighborhoods.

A new local initiative called Safe Routes to Schools plans to survey kids about how they get to school — and why. It should be interesting.

Speaking of research:

Last fall, a researcher from UC Berkeley surveyed the parents of fifth-graders from 10 Oakland schools. 

Dr. June Tester, now a pediatrician and researcher for Children’s Hospital-Oakland, found that half of the parents reported that their kids walked to school at least half the time, higher than the national average.

But many who drove their kids to school reported that traffic and crime were the main factors, rather than distance.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Caroline

    There was a fatal accident today at a major intersection near my house in San Francisco, at 19th and Sloat — two cars collided; one spun out and crushed a pedestrian.

    A friend who lives near there and whose 11th-grade son walks home via that intersection every day e-mailed in relief — she hadn’t had the radio or computer on and hadn’t heard about the accident until her son walked in and told her about it (then she realized why there were helicopters overhead). If she’d heard, she would have been frantic till her son had gotten home, of course.

    Every day I pass another intersection that has a permanent floral memorial to a 6-year-old who was killed there a few years ago (he was with his dad; it was just fate that the driver blinded by the son hit the boy and the dad survived).

    I’m a big walker and always a fan of exercise and fresh air. But you can’t not think about this.

  • Paul Esparza_Andalon

    The image is of Maya, a community leader in East Oakland. My first interaction with her was about 5 years ago in working with youth in the bike club at Peralta Hacienda Historical Park in Fruitvale.

  • Nora Cody

    I agree with Caroline that traffic accidents and distracted drivers are certainly a concern when you think about your child (or yourself!) walking to school. But we can’t let the bad drivers eliminate our right to walk safely in the streets. I’m working for the Safe Routes to Schools program to help communities find solutions to the problems — whether it be advocating for speed bumps, stop signs, and other “traffic calming” measures, or teaching kids how to be extra careful and “street smart,” or organizing “Walking School Buses” so adults can walk with kids. And thanks for the great coverage, Katy — it’s good to see something positive about Oakland schools!

  • felipe campos

    As an Oakland community member and Ex member of the DELAC too
    I am concern about the bilingual student’s Education

    Getting back retired ineffective district administrators as highly paid consultants on matters they were unable to resolve when they were responsible for their compliant implementation is an outrage and insult to our Oakland students. It is also a clear indication that things have not changed in regards to highly paid outside consultants under the state take-over.
    We have heard from reliable sources that the former head of the district compliance unit, Pam Bouvier, who in more of one occasion angered the parents of bilingual students for her incompetence and neglect over the required English Language Advisory Committees (ELAC) is going to be hired as a consultant to provide training on establishing ELACs at the district schools.
    She retired last year in the midst of district serious violations regarding ELACs and SARC (which by the way triggered a lawsuit by Public Advocates) but now she is being hired as a consultant to provide workshops for district employees regarding ELAC committees at the modest price of more than $ 200.00 an hour ( over $ 2000.00 for 9 hours).
    It is a well known fact among parents of English learners and DELAC/ELAC members that when her office, last year, was charged with establishing the ELAC committees at the schools, she did not rehire the bilingual Teachers on Special Assignments (TSA) and instead, her monolingual TSA failed to establish the ELAC committees. Very few ELAC committees were finally established late due to the pressure of the DELAC members but most of them were merged with the School Advisory Committees (SAC) because she was against the ELACs.
    Isn’t this a very high cost for sharing her experience and expertise on how to alienate parents of English learners and how to maintain the district out of compliance with the state regulations related to ELACs and bilingual education?

    Felipe Campos

  • felipe campos

    As a former DELAC member, Oakland public school teacher and long-term resident of Oakland, I would like to state that:
    The district administration,s corruption, nepotism and inefficiency, created the biggest financial and academic deficit in the business of educating our students four (4) years ago. Therefore, the State intervention and take-over was necessary at that time.
    Respectable Congressmen and Congresswomen, four (4) years ago, I came to this office to support the State intervention. Now, after four (4) years of mismanagement on the part of high administrator imposed by the State, I am here again, before you, to support Mr. Swanson’s legislation to end the State take-over of our district.
    Now, I am convinced that the medicine (the State- over), is much worse than the illness that needed to be cured. The academic achievement of our students, particularly, of our English Learners has taken several steps back, and there is no one watching.
    New confidential administrators with high salaries who are inept and incompetent are protected by the appointed State administrator and her chiefs. These inept outsiders are making too many mistakes at the expense of our students and district finances and there is no one to whom they are accountable since they claim to be “The State”
    This is the new nepotism in the Oakland School District. Before the inept central administrator were protected by the superintendent and the school board, now the inept are protected by the State.
    In regards to the District finances, I think the current central administrators have increased the deficit from around seventy (70) million to a one hundred (100) million. The central bureaucracy has become fatter without benefiting our students at all.
    Respectable members of the Congress, Governor and Mayor we urge you to support the signing and implementation of Mr. Swanson’s bill. However, for the sake of our students, we beg you to return the responsibility of educating our children to a new board of education and a new and a new OUSD central administration.
    Before you return the whole responsibility of educating our Oakland children to the school board and central administration make sure that every board member and every OUSD central administrator submit their resignation. Our Mayor, Mr. Dellums should be able to appoint a special committee of parents and knowledgeable community members to oversee a new election of board members and appointment of new OUSD central administrators.

    Sincerely, Felipe Campos. Oakland California. October. 8, 2007