Student-Led Advocacy for a Safe and Healthy Environment at Ruby Drive Elementary School
Walking to and from school is one of the easiest ways to increase daily physical activity and, along with healthy eating, maintaining a healthy weight. Safety has been a concern for parents of students at Ruby Drive after a child was hit by a car as she crossed the street. According to local data, Ruby Drive has one of the highest rates of pedestrian collisions in Orange County.
As part of Safe Routes to School implementation, 105 students and parents completed the National Walkability Checklist to assess their walk to school. The most commonly cited issue was not having enough room to walk safely, due to issues such as sidewalks being broken or cracked. In order to make the physical environment safe and appealing for children to walk and bike, we led the Ruby Drive students on a walkability audit to identify barriers to walking and biking to and from school. The students were equipped with cameras, notepads, pencils, and rulers to capture the issues they encountered when walking and biking to and from school. With our help, students then prioritized the issues and put together a report. The report, along with an invitation to hear the students present their findings, was sent to the City of Placentia Traffic Engineering and Code Enforcement, City Hall, Placentia Police Department, and the school board.
Shortly after completing the walkability audit, the students held their presentation at the school and advocated for changes to be made. Notably, one change to the fixed environment was announced by Mark Miller, City of Placentia Traffic Engineer, at the students’ presentation. A new traffic signal will be installed at the intersection of Ruby Drive and Placentia Avenue, the site of the previous accident and an intersection that currently has only one crosswalk with 4 lanes to cross and a 40 mile per hour speed limit. The new signal will make it safer for the many students who cross the street at this location. Addressing the numerous barriers to safe, active mobility is the first step to promoting the multiple health benefits of walking and bicycling. In addition to structural changes, the students are receiving pedestrian safety lessons from Placentia Police Department as well as nutrition education from the Orange County Department of Education. This obesity prevention and safety effort is a collaboration that stands to impact not only Ruby Drive Elementary, but also the surrounding community.
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