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New Pedestrian Safety Curriculum Trains Youth as ‘City Street Investigators’ in Chinatown

 In Media, Safe Routes to School, Success Stories

Following on the heels of the San Francisco Unified School District’s adoption of Vision Zero, Walk SF has launched a two-week long, after-school program to train youth on pedestrian safety.

The Pedestrian Safety curriculum, developed in partnership with the Chinatown YMCA, the Chinatown Community Development Center and the SF Safe Routes to School Partnership, helps improve safety skills and children’s understanding of the transportation system. The curriculum will be available to all youth enrolled in after school programs served by the Chinatown YMCA.

For grades K-2, instructors are using the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Child Pedestrian Safety Curriculum, which focuses on motor skill development, a key issue for young children who often have not developed the cognitive capacity to judge basics like the speed of traffic, or the direction of oncoming traffic.

Students in grades 3-5 are also receiving innovative lessons on the impact of street design on pedestrian safety. Building on a curriculum developed by New York City, students act as “City Street Investigators,” or detectives that are analyzing problems on the street, and determining street redesign solutions that will help overcome the challenges. Students also present their proposed changes to a mock Transportation Safety Board.

Jean Parker Elementary School, located adjacent to the high traffic Broadway Street, is one of the sites offering this innovative curriculum. Broadway Street will soon be home to pedestrian safety improvements through a streetscape redesign project led by SF Public Works.

“Discussing street redesign in conjunction with upcoming pedestrian safety improvements is an excellent way to build awareness for solutions needed to achieve Vision Zero,” says Angelina Yu, Senior Community Organizer at CCDC. “The curriculum conveys important safe walking tips for children who are transit-dependent, but more importantly it empowers them with the vocabulary, toolkit and an urban planning lens for envisioning what safer streets can look like in their neighborhood.”

With Tuesday’s adoption of a Vision Zero resolution by the San Francisco School Board, Chinatown’s efforts demonstrate an innovative approach to child pedestrian safety education. Improving street safety not only requires instilling motor skills at a critical age, but also helping youth understand the City’s role in preventing injuries, and how they can get involved in that process. With most students in Chinatown already walking to school, the program’s goal isn’t simply to encourage more children to walk: it ensures youth are getting to and from school safely.

What makes the curriculum unique is how it goes beyond traditional safety education, to provide kids (and families) with additional resources to assess local transportation systems and determine needed improvements to support the Vision Zero goal to and end all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2024.

“Pedestrian safety is a very important topic that our youth should be learning and practicing in these formative years,” says Misa Nguyen, associate director of youth programs at the Chinatown YMCA.  “After this training, our youth will understand that signals, signs and lights are to be observed with the utmost care, and that they also have to uses their senses to safely navigate the streets. Our after-school programs are so grateful for the opportunity to engage in a curriculum that could potentially save lives!”

To adopt this curriculum at your school, contact Walk SF’s Family and School Programs Coordinator.