On Sept. 20, 134 children and their caregivers walked from Woh Hei Yuen Park in Chinatown to nearby Jean Parker Elementary School with their monthly Safe Routes to School walking school bus — a program under threat of budget cuts from members of the Board of Supervisors.
Our Family and Schools Program Coordinator Janelle Phung, along with Principal Wesley Tang, led the way, speaking with children and caregivers about the importance of walking together as a community. Our monthly walking school buses are part of our work on Safe Routes to School partnership. Community members in Chinatown meet at a local park and several adults escort students on a communal walk to school. The SF Bicycle Coalition has been working with Chinatown elementary schools Gordon Lau, Jean Parker and John Yeehall Chin, as well as Spring Valley on Nob Hill, to develop and promote monthly walking school buses.
Walking to schools is a viable transportation option for children in Chinatown. At three of the schools that we serve as part of the Safe Routes to School partnership, over 50 percent of the children live within a mile of their school. At Jean Parker Elementary, 67 percent of the children live within a mile of their school.
Although Chinatown is a highly walkable neighborhood, many of the streets near the schools we serve are on the high-injury network — being among the 12 percent of SF streets where 70 percent of severe collisions occur.
“When the school first joined the Safe Routes to School program, Principal Tang at Jean Parker was hesitant to encourage walking to school,” said our Family and Youth Programs Coordinator Janelle Phung. The school entrance is just outside of the Broadway tunnel where there is a lot of heavy car traffic. “The walking school bus makes parents and grandparents of Jean Parker students feel safer. Beginning last year, Principal Tang started to lead the families from the meeting point. He also sends the messages to families to promote the walking school bus and has become a great champion of the program.”
These walking school buses also serve an important policy purpose. As part of Vision Zero’s two-year action strategy, San Francisco highlights its commitment to pedestrian safety by noting that children, seniors and people with disabilities are disproportionately at risk of collisions. Janelle’s progress in making walking school buses so successful can only continue if the City leaders continue to adequately fund the Safe Routes to School program.
Last month, we asked for your support to preserve Safe Routes to School’s funding. Members of the Board of Supervisors considered slashing Safe Routes to School funding by nearly 30 percent, from $2.8 million to $2.06 million starting in 2019, but delayed the ultimate decision. If this happens, it will have direct impact on important safety programming for students and families such as our walking school buses in Chinatown.To support our efforts to continue this important work, we ask that you continue to write to your Supervisor and advocate for fully funding Safe Routes to School programs.
San Francisco families in Chinatown and across our city need you to take action today. Email your Supervisor to ask them for fully funding Safe Routes to School and copy our Family & Schools Program Manager Nancy Buffum: firstname.lastname@example.org.
District 1 Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer: Sandra.Fewer@sfgov.org
District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell: email@example.com
District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin: firstname.lastname@example.org
District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang: email@example.com
District 5 Supervisor London Breed: firstname.lastname@example.org
District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim: email@example.com
District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee: firstname.lastname@example.org
District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy: email@example.com
District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen: firstname.lastname@example.org
District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen: email@example.com
District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Your Supervisor needs to hear from you today before they vote to cut this crucial funding for Safe Routes to School. Please write a letter of support for SF families and ask your Supervisor to join our efforts to deliver safe and healthy ways for San Francisco’s children to arrive at school.