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Walk This Way
updated: Nov 02, 2013, 1:00 PM
By Erin Lennon
It's early October, the first cold morning of fall. The sky is gray and rain is in the forecast. But Veronica
Blell and her daughter Miranda eagerly march up to Brandon School in Goleta, loaded down with a
backpack and coats. It's not your average Wednesday, after all. It's International Walk to School Day, and
Blell didn't want her daughter to miss it.
"We have dance, catechism, band. We're always going, going, going," says Blell as she hustles to keep
up with her daughter who is storming the small hill that leads to the entrance of the gray, single-story
elementary school known for the large Fire Coral tree that was planted in front of it in 1969.
The wheel deal: The Santa Barbara Open Streets project aims to reclaim the city's streets for bicyclists and pedestrians for a day, similar to Los Angeles'
CicLAVia event, shown here. (Melissa Wall)
Miranda is eager to join a line of kids wending from the sidewalk around the tree and up to the entrance
of the school, all waiting for pictures with Big Dog, the school mascot and, to a much lesser degree, to
meet and greet local luminaries such as Goleta city councilmembers Paula Perotte and Michael Bennett.
International Walk to School Day is a global event locally organized by the Santa Barbara-based
Coalition for Sustainable Transportation (COAST). Though ardent supporters of non-motorized travel in
general, COAST was specifically using International Walk to School Day as a chance to promote its Safe
Routes to School program. Safe Routes focuses on decreasing traffic and pollution and improving
children's health by making it easier and safer for kids to walk and bike to school.
At the head of the line, in the midst of the organized chaos of bikes, foot-powered scooters and book
bags that seem almost as big as the kids wearing them, is Ruth McGolpin, or Coach Ruth. Coach Ruth is
an athletic woman with a quick smile and an ability to efficiently keep the long line moving as kids get
their pictures taken, collect treats and head off to class.
McGolpin says Brandon School averages about 250 walkers and bikers every year for International Walk
to School Day. But her goal is to get every kid active, every day, before they head to their classrooms.
"My motto is get fit, have fun, join friends," says McGolpin, pointing to a festive poster hanging on the
playground fence featuring cartoon drawings of kids riding their bikes and walking to school.
Brandon School is ideally situated for walking and riding bikes to school. It sits in a safe residential
neighborhood with smooth, wide sidewalks and a nearby community park. Most of the traffic comes
from parents dropping kids off here or at nearby Dos Pueblos High School. They are attuned to being in
school zones with high levels of pedestrian traffic. Self-powered commutes make perfect sense here,
but this isn't the case in many Santa Barbara-area school zones.
Read the full article at MissionAndState.org
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