Addressing Personal Safety in Getting to School in Southeastern San Diego

Horton Elementary School - Walk to School Day October 2010

The Center for Healthier Communities at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego was awarded Federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Funding to support walking and bicycling to schools district wide – at 26 elementary schools – in Southeastern San Diego. The program is currently in the process of identifying 6 schools in the District with the highest need. These schools will be selected based on collision rates, low walking and biking rates, and overall need. These 6 schools will engage in comprehensive Safe Routes to School activities – the remaining 20 schools will receive technical support and resources – but not at the concentrated levels as the 6 other schools.

As of March 2011, the program in its second year, has efforts at 4 of the 6 comprehensive elementary schools underway (Porter, Knox, Horton, Chollas-Mead).  The program has received significant support from both local law enforcement and city engineering. It has been identified as a critical need to have partnerships that allow for collaboration to identify realistic solutions to address the public/social safety issues and built environment issues identified.

In addition, the SRTS team is working on collaborations with both the iCommute (a San Diego County-wide project sponsored by SANDAG) and to implement incentive programs. These programs also provide tracking and reporting tools which will be incorporated into classroom curriculum to educate children and parents on the benefits of walking and biking to school.

Chollas-Mead Elementary School

Recognizing serious hurdles in addressing not only transportation related concerns – but also personal safety concerns, the Safe Routes to School Team has established working relationships with city and community organizations.  This includes a very important and critical relationships with the San Diego Police Department – Southeastern Division, City Engineering, District 4 Councilmember Anthony Young’s office, Project Safe Way of the Jacobs Foundation, and the Safe Passages program, which is a collaboration between the San Diego Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention and the Institute for Public Strategies.

In October 2010, the San Diego Police Department – Southeastern Division launched a “Safety Campaign”. This campaign was a collaboration between Say San Diego, Project Safe Way, Safe Routes to School (Rady Children’s Hospital), the Gang Commission, and the police department to address a rash of 5 child pedestrian deaths in the region in an 8-month timeframe. As of today, there have been no additional child-pedestrian deaths in the region since the launch of the campaign. To continue this success, the police department has supported the formation of the Southeastern San Diego Resource Team (SSRT) in an effort to educate the community on the resources available in the domain of safety.

In addition to the Safety Campaign, the SRTS team has been exploring the possibility of a working in a formal partnership with the Safe Passages program. The mission of Safe Passages is to reduce violence and promote peace on the streets of San Diego. This program specifically targets issues surrounding gang violence, sex trafficking, and drug/alcohol distribution. These efforts strongly complement the objectives of SRTS programs and in many instances, can be essential to a successful Safe Routes to School Program. The partnership with Safe Passages will allow for the creation of a more complex program model and develop even more collaborative community partnerships to comprehensively address safety in the community.

It’s exciting that there are many different efforts regarding Safe Routes to School happening all over the San Diego region – this is just one of them.  Check out the work Walk San Diego is doing in this report on their efforts in Chula Vista.

A big thanks to Rady Children’s Hospital Safe Routes to School Coordinator Dane Lotspeich for providing this overview of the program. Contact Dane at to find out more.  And thanks to San Diego Unified Newsfeed for their picture from Horton Elementary. Want to see your Safe Routes to School efforts highlighted on this blog? I do too! Send a overview of your program to and I’ll put up a post on it.  Have a great picture to accompany your story – send that too!  — Jessica

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