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City and school district team up for bike safety workshops for Mountain View students

Middle schooler's fatal bicycle collision puts spotlight on students' commutes

Ria Hutabarat Lo, Mountain View's transportation manager, teaches fifth-graders how to properly care for their bikes during a transportation safety training at Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary School on Aug. 29, 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

For Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary School fifth-grader Duru, scootering to school with a friend each morning is fun because the short commute gives her some exercise and feels easier than walking.

"When you're walking, you feel so sluggish with your backpack on," Duru said. "But when you're scootering or biking, it's just a bit faster and you don't feel like you have a backpack on."

Local school and city officials encourage students and families to get to campuses without driving, by using methods like biking, scootering and walking.

In an effort to help students learn the rules of the road and get to school safely, the city of Mountain View's Safe Routes to School program has partnered with the Mountain View Whisman School District to host transportation safety trainings at every elementary and middle school this fall.

After attending a Monday, Aug. 29, workshop at Vargas, Duru said that she plans to focus more on making eye contact with drivers when she's riding her scooter to school, which was one of the safety tips students learned.

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Her classmate Alex said he enjoyed the workshop and likes getting to bike to school each day.

"It's really quick and efficient and fun," Alex said.

During the training at Vargas, kids rotated through four stations, where they learned about the importance of wearing a helmet and how to ensure it fits properly, what various road signs mean, how to check the inflation of bike tires and other safety skills. Students were also given a map of recommended roads to use when biking to school.

Fifth-graders practice pedestrian etiquette on a makeshift crosswalk during a transportation safety training at Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary School in Mountain View on Aug. 29, 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

The district has held bike safety trainings in the past, but Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph said that they tended to be opt-in events, rather than a coordinated effort. After Graham Middle School student Andre Retana died in a March 2022 fatal collision while bicycling, Rudolph said that the issue of bicycle safety came to a head and the district decided all schools should be getting safety training.

"It reminded me that we have a captive audience and that we have a moral obligation to get our kids to school safely," Rudolph said.

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A cyclist himself, Rudolph spoke of the importance of following safety best practices, like using hand signals and learning how to safely share the road with cars. He and his son, who is a student in the district, bike to work and school together each morning. The rides give the two a chance to spend time together, Rudolph said, adding that he wants kids to be able to get out and bike, but that it needs to be safe.

Likewise, Vargas Principal Vern Taylor said that he encourages families to walk or bike to school, but that parents need to be able to trust that it's safe to let their kids forgo a car ride.

"We want to make sure that kids are walking and biking to school – and to do that, you have to make sure they can do it safely," Taylor said.

A student looks over a neighborhood map around Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary School while at a transportation safety training at the Mountain View campus on Aug. 29, 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Roughly 40 students at Vargas bike each day, while another 15 to 20 take scooters, Taylor estimated, adding that many of the school's roughly 340 students walk. A lot of families commute from a housing development that is directly across the street, he said.

For Priyoti Ahmed, a transportation planner with the city of Mountain View who manages the Safe Routes to School program, the workshops offer a good opportunity to get feedback directly from students about their paths to school.

At Vargas, she learned that unlike other schools, there are many more walkers than bikers, and that among those who do bike, many are taking North Whisman Road, which runs directly to the school, but doesn't have a protected bike lane. This is the kind of feedback she'll bring back to city staff, so they can incorporate it into future project planning.

During the workshop, Ahmed led a station where she taught kids basic rules of the road and reviewed a map of preferred biking paths near the school. The safety trainings offer an opportunity to teach kids practical skills, as well as to get them thinking about different modes of transportation.

"Conceptions of what is safe, it forms pretty young," Ahmed said. "I think we have a really good opportunity to advocate for sustainable transportation through safety."

Even before the fatal collision that killed Andre last spring, Ahmed said that the city was already interested in getting standardized transportation safety education set up in local schools.

Rudolph said he is thankful for the city, district staff and community for recognizing the importance of this issue.

"Obviously I pray that there will never be an accident, but I know that educating our kids will get us a lot closer," Rudolph said. "It won't prevent everything, but it will definitely reduce a lot of the near misses and a lot of the accidents that we have."

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Zoe Morgan
 
Zoe Morgan covers education, youth and families for the Mountain View Voice and Palo Alto Weekly / PaloAltoOnline.com, with a focus on using data to tell compelling stories. A Mountain View native, she has previous experience as an education reporter in both California and Oregon. Read more >>

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City and school district team up for bike safety workshops for Mountain View students

Middle schooler's fatal bicycle collision puts spotlight on students' commutes

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Mon, Sep 5, 2022, 12:35 pm
Updated: Tue, Sep 6, 2022, 12:10 pm

For Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary School fifth-grader Duru, scootering to school with a friend each morning is fun because the short commute gives her some exercise and feels easier than walking.

"When you're walking, you feel so sluggish with your backpack on," Duru said. "But when you're scootering or biking, it's just a bit faster and you don't feel like you have a backpack on."

Local school and city officials encourage students and families to get to campuses without driving, by using methods like biking, scootering and walking.

In an effort to help students learn the rules of the road and get to school safely, the city of Mountain View's Safe Routes to School program has partnered with the Mountain View Whisman School District to host transportation safety trainings at every elementary and middle school this fall.

After attending a Monday, Aug. 29, workshop at Vargas, Duru said that she plans to focus more on making eye contact with drivers when she's riding her scooter to school, which was one of the safety tips students learned.

Her classmate Alex said he enjoyed the workshop and likes getting to bike to school each day.

"It's really quick and efficient and fun," Alex said.

During the training at Vargas, kids rotated through four stations, where they learned about the importance of wearing a helmet and how to ensure it fits properly, what various road signs mean, how to check the inflation of bike tires and other safety skills. Students were also given a map of recommended roads to use when biking to school.

The district has held bike safety trainings in the past, but Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph said that they tended to be opt-in events, rather than a coordinated effort. After Graham Middle School student Andre Retana died in a March 2022 fatal collision while bicycling, Rudolph said that the issue of bicycle safety came to a head and the district decided all schools should be getting safety training.

"It reminded me that we have a captive audience and that we have a moral obligation to get our kids to school safely," Rudolph said.

A cyclist himself, Rudolph spoke of the importance of following safety best practices, like using hand signals and learning how to safely share the road with cars. He and his son, who is a student in the district, bike to work and school together each morning. The rides give the two a chance to spend time together, Rudolph said, adding that he wants kids to be able to get out and bike, but that it needs to be safe.

Likewise, Vargas Principal Vern Taylor said that he encourages families to walk or bike to school, but that parents need to be able to trust that it's safe to let their kids forgo a car ride.

"We want to make sure that kids are walking and biking to school – and to do that, you have to make sure they can do it safely," Taylor said.

Roughly 40 students at Vargas bike each day, while another 15 to 20 take scooters, Taylor estimated, adding that many of the school's roughly 340 students walk. A lot of families commute from a housing development that is directly across the street, he said.

For Priyoti Ahmed, a transportation planner with the city of Mountain View who manages the Safe Routes to School program, the workshops offer a good opportunity to get feedback directly from students about their paths to school.

At Vargas, she learned that unlike other schools, there are many more walkers than bikers, and that among those who do bike, many are taking North Whisman Road, which runs directly to the school, but doesn't have a protected bike lane. This is the kind of feedback she'll bring back to city staff, so they can incorporate it into future project planning.

During the workshop, Ahmed led a station where she taught kids basic rules of the road and reviewed a map of preferred biking paths near the school. The safety trainings offer an opportunity to teach kids practical skills, as well as to get them thinking about different modes of transportation.

"Conceptions of what is safe, it forms pretty young," Ahmed said. "I think we have a really good opportunity to advocate for sustainable transportation through safety."

Even before the fatal collision that killed Andre last spring, Ahmed said that the city was already interested in getting standardized transportation safety education set up in local schools.

Rudolph said he is thankful for the city, district staff and community for recognizing the importance of this issue.

"Obviously I pray that there will never be an accident, but I know that educating our kids will get us a lot closer," Rudolph said. "It won't prevent everything, but it will definitely reduce a lot of the near misses and a lot of the accidents that we have."

Comments

Frank Richards
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 5, 2022 at 5:30 pm
Frank Richards, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2022 at 5:30 pm

Absolutely insane that the only real outcome from the tragedy on El Camino is that we're setting up classes for kids on bikes. No concrete road safety improvements, no speed limit reductions, no enhanced traffic enforcement. No concrete commitment from the city. Just deciding as a city that we're going to put the onus on our children to not die, not the planners or the people operating multi-ton vehicles. Complete negligence and failure by the city. Engineering the streets to be safe for anyone not using a car is hard, let's just run a class.

The transportation planner didn't even know that the main road leading to the school doesn't have a protected bike lane! And after that, all they'll do is "bring back that feedback to staff for project planning." What is going on here?


Nora S.
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Sep 5, 2022 at 8:49 pm
Nora S., Rex Manor
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2022 at 8:49 pm

@ Frank,
Well said—I'm in complete agreement!
-Nora


Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 6, 2022 at 10:45 am
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 10:45 am

There is a concept called "low-hanging fruit". I think it's wonderful that transportation safety trainings are being conducted at every elementary and middle school this fall. I would be highly upset if such trainings were not conducted.

"Engineering the streets to be safe for anyone not using a car is hard."

Agreed. I dream of a world where kids bike to school on paths devoid of all other traffic. I think any solution where kids share heavily trafficked roads when they bike to school puts them at a disadvantage. But getting to that point will be very difficult and expensive, I suspect.

These trainings might be the only outcome "so far", but that doesn't make them a bad outcome or mean that nothing else should be done or will be done. I think it's a great short-term solution. Would it be better for the schools to NOT be conducting such trainings? I say kudos to the schools for organizing and implementing them.


Frank Richards
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 6, 2022 at 11:39 am
Frank Richards, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 11:39 am

The simple question to the city is how many lives or injuries do they expect these classes to save.

Engineering streets to be safe is not actually difficult, it just requires the city have the will to not sacrifice our children. Putting bicyclists and pedestrians first is easy. Why is there a 35 MPH road directly in front of the school in the article? Why is there no protected bike lane? How many traffic violations have the MVPD cited during pickup and dropoff times? Any competent transportation planner could remedy this cheaply in a week. Apply that to every other school and that's what it would look like in a city that was committed to never repeating the tragedy on El Camino.

Instead, we just get lip service and "taking feedback to prioritize future project planning."


Bob
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Sep 6, 2022 at 2:24 pm
Bob, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 2:24 pm

Without any judgement on the actual accident nor on the argument above on what should or should not be done...I would like to ask parents to teach their kids to NOT ride in crosswalks. It is actually illegal to do so but that is not my reason. You're mostly ok when you're actually in the crosswalk but kids blast out from what is many times a hidden or partially hidden sidewalk right into the crosswalk and holy geez it is really dangerous because they appear out of nowhere. Thanks for considering.


SalsaMusic
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 6, 2022 at 3:08 pm
SalsaMusic, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 3:08 pm

I was surprised to learn it’s not illegal to ride on the sidewalk. Only illegal in downtown area.


bkengland
Registered user
Whisman Station
on Sep 6, 2022 at 6:16 pm
bkengland, Whisman Station
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 6:16 pm

There's actually quite a lot being worked on by the City on future improvements. This article is about Safe Routes to School specifically, which is an important part of the solution set, but certainly not the only one. Keep an eye out for work on the new City Active Transportation Plan (ATP), just starting now, and consider participating in community groups such as Mountain View Coalition for Sustainable Planning (MVCSP) and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition Mountain View team. Getting involved is important.
That said, I agree that 35 MPH in front of Vargas is crazy, and at least a few of us in the community have been pressing for this being addressed, and much more recently given the City's expressed interest in safety for our kids.


Frank Richards
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 6, 2022 at 7:01 pm
Frank Richards, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 7:01 pm

bkengland, I think that gets to the crux of my complaint. The city is really good at paying lip service to these issues and making lots of plans. They signed on to Vision Zero in 2019, they're collecting feedback on plans now. What they're not doing is acting with the urgency you should expect after a child died. They already know what the problems are, but they are actively choosing that the existing process that failed us is worth more than the future safety of cyclists and pedestrians in the city. I joined the community meeting after the tragedy, and the city made no concrete commitment to improving safety, just expressed sadness and told us to wait years as they plan new projects and apply their prioritization framework. It shouldn't be on kids to learn how to bike, or for normal people to have to get involved outside of their existing responsibilities. The city should act like these kids' lives are important, and we should expect more from the city.


Proud Taxpayer
Registered user
Willowgate
on Sep 8, 2022 at 4:34 pm
Proud Taxpayer , Willowgate
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2022 at 4:34 pm

The city should start with enhanced traffic enforcement.
Then, instead of doing classes for the students, do some safety classes for the parents. They are the ones in the cars.
Finally, combine the two and do some serious traffic enforcement in front of schools. Parents are illegally parking, blocking bus stops, sidewalks, and bike lanes. They are idling their cars, while staring at their phones waiting for their kids. They show no care or caution for the world around them.


father of 3 sons
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 8, 2022 at 5:28 pm
father of 3 sons, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2022 at 5:28 pm

@ Leslie thanks, U often make a lot of sense. @ Frank? You are unfortunately Wrong about it being simple and cheap. Take a look at the Protected Bike Lanes and redesign of Castro Street as it now is in front of Graham Middle School. Well protected bike lanes (physical curbs added in street, AND car parking outside the curbing - INTERCEPTING any vehicles 'wandering on' to the bike path area.) Frank - go look up the City Streets Dept. goverment documents on how much That Cost! (Or search The Voice archives!). This redesign happened after two 'close calls' for students unsafely crossing streets. School administrators 'asked the City', they responded (Traffic Engineering) and at least Trustee Ellen Wheeler and I (Nelson) showed up at the council committeee (Pedestrian & Bikes) where this redesign was formally discussed. I was a vocal proponent, as was the local bike safety NGO for "protected bike lanes."

Vargas - how wonderful that 3 Trustees (Wheeler and myself included) forced the issue of opening Vargas.(3-2) Without a local neighborhood school in that under-served community, there would not now be so much walking, scooting and biking to elementary!

It is a shame IMO, that there was Not even a candidate, to now run against then Trustee Bill Lambert - who voted AGAINST opening Vargas in that neighborhood. I sure hope he does not continue to be -the "champion of His Neighborhood" (Monta Loma). That would truly be - a detriment to the school neighborhoods, as a WHOLE.


Frank Richards
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 8, 2022 at 6:21 pm
Frank Richards, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2022 at 6:21 pm

Yes, if you overengineer a solution you can spend a lot of money. I bike on the Graham path regularly, and you could have done that way cheaper by just installing bollards (non-flex) and getting rid of the onstreet parking. I still have almost been hit by parents dropping their kids off there! On top of that, it took them 6 years from when three kids were hit by cars in 2012 to finish the project.

Similarly, you could add bollards in front of Vargas, reduce the speed limit to 20 MPH, and start writing tickets. Just because the city chooses a slow and expensive approach doesn't mean you can't make people safer quickly for cheap.


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