The primary objectives of Safe Routes to Schools planning involve removing the physical and emotional barriers that currently prevent children from actively walking or biking to school. These barriers include lack of sidewalks or other infrastructure, unsafe walkways and crossings, and lack of educational and encouragement programs for children, parents, and the community that promote walking and bicycling. However, to be truly successful, these well-intentioned and necessary planning efforts must be built on block-by-block, systematic documentation of physical conditions around the schools, coupled with direct and sustained engagement with school leaders, parents, and children for whom the programs are designed to benefit. Teams of energetic and mission-driven university students, through structured service-learning projects, can be an instrumental component of Safe Routes to Schools planning.
This report highlights the work of graduate urban planning students at San José State University to conduct comprehensive assessments of street conditions surrounding five schools in San José. The students’ careful research – coupled with the productive conversations they initiated with local parents, their children, and school principals – was instrumental in successful Safe Routes to Schools efforts in central San José.
Richard M. Kos, AICP, is a certified Urban Planner; Lecturer, Graduate Advisor, and Practitioner in Residence in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at San José State University. Richard has collaborated with over 200 graduate students in service-learning projects since starting with the department in 2007.