The City of San Francisco, along with the SOMA community, are taking matters into their own hands.
“Bessie Carmichael K-8 is at the heart of our SOMA Youth and Family Zone and is the poster child for critical Vision Zero improvements, as it is surrounded by freeway arterials and speeding commuters,” said Supervisor Jane Kim, who fought for the Sherman Alley safety gate while serving on the Board of Education. “Parents, youth and seniors have been fighting for traffic calming in this neighborhood since this school was built. Our schools and senior centers should be the top priority for the city, especially in the most congested neighborhoods.”
On October 8, International Walk & Roll to School Day, over 150 Bessie Carmichael elementary school students formed “walking school buses” and made their way through SOMA to reach school before the bell rang, sending a strong message to thousands of commuters: families live here, children walk here. As they walked, they got a “head start” to cross Folsom and 7th Streets before cars got a green light – a strategy proven to reduce the number of cars that fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, and celebrated new school zone signs that—as of two weeks ago—surround the school to remind drivers to slow down.
These safety improvements are critical for Bessie Carmichael School, located at the corner of some of the most dangerous streets in San Francisco. Bessie is one of a handful of schools in the city which do not qualify for slower 15 mph school zones, as state law precludes these slow zones on wide, fast streets where they’re needed most.
Ed Reiskin, Director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, highlighted initiatives across the city that are making it safer for children to walk, roll and bicycle to school. The safety improvements around Bessie Carmichael Elementary & Middle Schools include:
- Leading pedestrian interval at 7th and Folsom (complete)
- School Zone signage around Bessie Carmichael Elementary School (complete)
- Painted bulbouts at 6th St. and Howard St. (complete)
- New signal at 6th St and Minna (planned for October 2014)
- New stop signs and crosswalks in the school zone (planned for end of 2014)
- Howard St. lane narrowing, bicycle lane and painted bulbouts (planned for winter 2014/2015)
- School Zone signage around Bessie Carmichael Middle School (planned)
- Raised crosswalk on Sherman St. between Victoria Manalo Draves Park and the School (planned)
- Ramp signage to remind drivers exiting the freeway that they are entering a community (planned)
- Daylighting and bulbouts at 4th/Harrison (planned)
Safe Routes to Schools leader, and long-time Bessie Carmichael staff member, Bobbie Washington, shared, “Walking, rolling and bicycling to school keeps our kids healthy, but in SOMA safety is a big concern. We’re pleased the SFMTA has put in new signage and addressed the dangerous Folsom and 7th Street intersection, and we’re eager to see additional planned improvements, like raised crosswalks, and traffic calming on the alleyways surrounding our school on the ground this school year. The community has fought long and hard for these changes.”
With almost 90 schools and 14,000 children participating in Walk & Roll to School Day across the city, Superintendent Carranza said, “I’m proud of the San Francisco Unified School District and the SF Safe Routes to Schools Partnership for making it safer and easier to build physical activity into our children’s everyday lives. With over 85% of SFUSD elementary schools participating in today’s event, the School District looks forward to families continuing to walk and roll throughout the school year so students arrive focused and ready to learn.”
Walk SF is proud to be part of the San Francisco Safe Routes to Schools Partnership to engage school communities in ensuring that San Francisco’s streets are safe for people of all ages and abilities.
To set up a Walking School Bus at your school, or to learn about resources available to parents, school staff, and community members to support and encourage more children walking, biking and rolling to school, which provide key health and academic benefits for students (while reducing traffic around campuses), contact Genaro Escarzaga at 415.431.9255 x5 or, via email.