After announcing the recipients of this year’s 8th annual bike summit awards, we caught up with the Project of the Year winners to learn more about equity in Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs in San Mateo County. A big part of our work at SVBC focuses on building strong SRTS programs in both Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties to encourage more kids to walk and bike to school. At a staff retreat in 2016, we endeavored to find out which schools apply for and receive SRTS funding to assess the impact of our work across low-income communities and communities of color.

This was the genesis of a recent study published by Get Healthy San Mateo County (SMC) this spring. The report looked at the nexus of traffic collision data, high poverty areas, as well as SRTS-funded schools, and offered a fuller picture of the allocation of resources from an equity lens to address health disparities across the County.

What the County of San Mateo’s Health System and Office of Education found “wasn’t surprising,” said Heather Arata, Community Health Planner at SMC Health System. It affirmed that higher poverty neighborhoods have less infrastructure for safe routes to school, particularly for residents “who have to walk or bike to school out of necessity.”

The analysis looked at collision data involving someone walking or biking within a quarter mile of public elementary schools, and subsequently prioritized fifteen schools in high poverty areas for safety improvements. Of note was that these schools made up nearly 30 percent of all collisions, even though they add up to less than 10 percent of all public elementary schools in the county. In a way, “the report shines a light on San Mateo County,” said Arata. Although the County is designated as one of the healthiest in the Bay Area, “there are communities where resources are needed the most.”

Another important result of the report was building relationships among the various stakeholders. “Last fall, when we released the findings we convened school principals, city staff, and the Safe Routes to School coordinators of each city,” said Theresa Vallez-Kelly, Safe Routes to Schools Coordinator with San Mateo County Office of Education. “We learned cities and school administrators don’t always communicate with each other. If schools wanted to put in a stop sign, they didn’t know who to contact.” The report models the ways in which schools can engage in city planning processes and learn how safety improvement projects could be funded and implemented at schools.

Again, SVBC congratulates Get Healthy SMC for its formative contribution to acknowledging equity concerns in student transportation safety, program funding, and public health. As well as receiving this award, the report will be presented at SVBC’s 8th Annual Bike Summit on August 22, 2018, so register today! Also, click here to learn more about SVBC’s role in shaping the concept of the report.