Letter: Safer pedestrian paths to schools

Traffic around Encinitas schools is a dangerous problem.

I live adjacent to the Paul Ecke Central school and the traffic in the morning is crazy as parents jockey to drop off their children and rush off to the day’s activities. The school has done an amazing and admirable job of coordinating the traffic as best they can but it is time to support them with real traffic calming support.

A traffic calming plan must include a number of approaches to reduce risk and engender safety. It should be staged and supportive of a number of alternative transportation methods to and from the school. One immediate approach toward traffic relief should start with the institution of a school bus service that delivers children safely to and from their school from designated neighborhood pick up areas. The amount of CO2, air pollution and traffic from all the cars dropping individual students off could be reduced immediately. Even more so if the buses used electric energy. This type of program is in line with the California Climate Action Plan’s goal to reduce State greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The State has funding for medium to heavy vehicle transportation hybridization that could support this type of bus program and perhaps our City Council could start by pursuing that.

Safe bike and walking paths are a second intermediate addition to a comprehensive traffic calming plan, as they require construction and budgets that cross sector lines. Bike paths that “share the road” with drivers also “share the risk.” Increased use of bike paths is smart from a health and environmental standpoint but with children the roll out has to be well planned and staged. Drivers need to learn to share the road with bikes so any path established adjacent to automobile traffic should begin with adult use first then transition to child use. Bike paths separate from road traffic are ideal and widening the path along Vulcan combined with railroad underpasses will encourage students from both sides of the railroad tracks to ride to school.

Finally a comprehensive traffic flow study can not simply look at the school and its immediate environment. It must also look at where the traffic is flowing in from, what obstacles exist to establishing alternative transportation along the way, and the very nature of the neighborhoods where students live including the availability of bicycles and parental buy in.

Something must be done to ease the traffic adjacent to our schools so no more injuries occur and so we encourage our children to establish healthy habits. How we do that is with a staged, multi-layered approach that establishes immediate as well as longer term co-benefits for everyone.

Eileen Natuzzi, MD, San Diego State University, School of Public Health Climate Reality Project

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