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Bicycle Friendly Berkeley keeps kids safe

By Devona Walker, Daily Planet Staff
Friday June 14, 2002

Keeping the streets safe for pint-size pedestrians is a lot of work and takes a considerable amount of preparation, the Bicycle Friendly Berkeley Coalition can attest to that. 

Staff, students, parents and teachers involved in the program designed to make the roadways safer for children going to and from school gathered this week to acknowledge the teamwork that goes into it. Four area schools were acknowledged at an award ceremony participating in the program — Malcolm X, Longfellow, Willard and Le Conte Elementary Schools. 

“We basically took the time to recognize everyone who has contributed in the project,” said Sarah Syed of the coalition. 

The Safe Routes program affiliated with the coalition began in the fall of 2000, working with approximately 10 local school. Since then the number of schools the program has worked with has narrowed. Syed said the coalition specifically began to target fewer schools to create more lasting impacts as opposed to having a less significant impact upon a larger number of people. 

Ciera Richard lives six blocks away from her school Macolm X Elementary School. Recently her mother has been allowing her to walk to school but not home in the evening.  

Richard recently spoke to City Council, attesting to what a positive experience she has had with Safe Routes. In fact, her class recently took part in a Science Project involving the walking patterns of children in the area. 

“We did a hypothesis of how many kids came to school by walking, by car or rode their bike,” Richard said. “And the answer was that most people are driven.” 

The answer to that hypothesis is perhaps the major concern of Safe Routes. They contend that the various thoroughfares that stand between the schools and the students’ residences as well as the unsafe driving patterns of parents to be the main reason for most pedestrian accidents. 

The reason Ciera Richard does not walk home from school is directly related to these traffic patterns. 

“I let her walk to school in the mornings but I drive her in the evenings,” said Yolanda Maker-Richard, Ciera’s mother. “She has to cross Sacramento. There’s a crossing guard there now. But in the evening, especially if I-80 gets backed up it is too dangerous.” 

The crossing guards are a recent addition. With the passage of SB10 -Soto last fall, approximately $70,000 capital projects will be made available over the next three years. In addition funds have been made available through the California Department of Health Services to provide planning and organizing for Safe Routes.  

Yolanda Maker-Richard has been living in the same home for 44 years. In fact, she attended Malcolm X when she was a child, only then it was named Lincoln and she says though Berkeley is better than many cities when it comes to pedestrian safety that something needs to be done. 

Syed agreed, blaming automobile-oriented city planning to the unsafe roadways. 

“More and more space is being stolen from pedestrians,” Syed said. “It’s a vicious circle.”  


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