Somber Tone Characterizes 2012 Marin Walk/Bike To School Event

Middle School Student’s Death Brings Home Bicycle Safety Issues

Child on Bike

The death of 12-year-old Hailey Ratliff, who was killed while riding her bike home from school in September, cast a pall over the annual Marin County bike and walk to school event. Organizers insist, however, that it tragically illustrates the importance of the Safe Routes to School program, and the need of parents and officials to embrace efforts to provide safe travel to and from school. Wendi Kallins, program director for Safe Routes to School, told reporters that “it means we have to be even more dedicated to safety and remind children and parents to take safety precautions.”

The Safe Routes to School program, formerly a grassroots campaign, is now administered by the Transportation Authority of Marin. The program seeks to get schoolchildren walking and riding to school, rather than riding in parents’ vehicles. Organizers point to child obesity rates that are at all-time highs, as well as statistics that show that nearly 30% of drive time traffic is parents taking their children to and from school. The Marin program began in 2000 with nine schools and now boasts more than 50 participating schools. The program has expanded across the United States and is now administered by transportation departments throughout the nation.

The program seeks to use tax revenues to provide additional crossing guards, as well as school education programs and capital improvements, such as the construction or repair of sidewalks. The unfortunate death of Ratliff has not dissuaded officials from advocating for the Safe Routes to Schools programs. Dianne Steinhauser, head of the local transportation authority, told reporters that the accident was not “an indication that the program is not valid overall. This was just a real unfortunate tragedy.”

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