I just found out that tomorrow the National Center for Safe Routes to School is encouraging all students to walk or bike to school for Walk Bike to School Day. There are events planned at schools throughout the United States. And since Murrieta is hosting the start of one of the stages of the largest professional cycling events in the country on Monday you'd think every school in the district would be on board. But they aren't. And that is a shame. But our city council and school district don't always play nicely together if you know what I mean.
Since I do ride my son to school three days a week on a bike, pulling him in a trailer past 4 schools (the elementary school near us, the high school and junior high that are next to each other and the elementary school he goes to) I feel I can say fairly confidently
CYCLING SAFETY SUCKS IN WEST MURRIETA.
I have heard it is equally dangerous in other areas of town as well.
How can there be no bike lane on the block next to Murrieta Valley High School and Thompson MiddleSchool? How can there be no sidewalks across the street so more often than not students have to go around cars parked on the dirt path? Yeah, I know, it is an undelveloped lot and when the houses are finally built (years from now) the developer will someday eventually get around to adding the sidewalk. Hmph! And in the meantime?
Every student we encounter from all of the schools are always polite, quick to move to the side for me to get by, and some even give my son a friendly greeting as we pass by. The students that drive to school are also very courteous as far as we have seen. No, the students aren't the problem as far as I have seen.
The biggest problem is the parents that are in too big of a hurry (or are on their cell phones!!!!!!!) to notice any cyclists or walkers. The crossing guards and I stare in amazement at the parents that either don't notice me, or just refuse to yield to me, despite the fact that I have the walk light. At least one a day turns right in front of me when I try to cross the street with the walk light. A few have even screamed at me for daring to go in front of them.
Hello! I tried to make eye contact as we were both waiting at the red light to make sure you knew I was going to cross, but you were TEXTING! or juggling your coffee, putting on make up, eating, yelling at your kid, etc.
FYI - the crossing guard only crosses the students, they aren't supposed to assist me. I stop at the light, press the walk button and wait my turn to enter the sidewalk safelly and legally. When you are turning right on red, you are supposed to yield to pedestrians (including cyclists!) entering the crosswalk when they have the walk light (got questions? check here). And yeah, when I am halfway across the street coming towards you when I have a walk light and you have a red, you probably don't want to floor it to turn right, even if five other people in front of you also broke the law.
Luckily for me, I am almost done with the 6+ mile round trips down Danger Alley (aka Washington Avenue) for at least 6 years. My son will be walking or riding his bike (with me next to him for at least a few years) the whopping 2 blocks to school when he starts Kindergarten in September.
I am 100% behind the efforts of The National Center for Safe Routes to School's efforts. I have heard too many parents from all over the nation say they drive their kids to school because it isn't safe for them to walk or ride a bike. Unfortunately, I know first hand it is true. Meanwhile childhood obesity is on the rise. The answers aren't easy, but it's time we start asking the right questions of everyone involved: the drivers, the students, the city planners and the school district. Maybe if everyone in the village worked together things would be safer.