Alameda County Public Health Department Nutrition Services Program has received Active Transportation State Funds since 2013. Funds supported the 2013-2018 collaboration named Be Oakland Be Active, a comprehensive Safe Routes To School Program and the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 collaboration called Active Oakland. The collaboration supports an innovative, non-infrastructure only Safe Routes To School Program with the goal to educate, inform, and encourage pedestrian and bicycle safety, with a public health and equity lens, by offering a comprehensive menu of services that help to seed policy, implement systems, and make impactful environmental changes at school sites and neighboring communities throughout the City of Oakland.
ACNS convenes the collaboration and has worked in partnership with the following entities:
Oakland Unified School District's (OUSD) Wellness Office with non-profit partner, TransForm.
The City of Oakland Police Department
Fiscal sponsor, the Alameda County Public Works Department (ACPDWD) and
Community Engaged Residents and Students
In-kind partners include the American Automobile Association of Northern California and Utah and Nevada (AAA) and the City of Oakland's Department of Transportation (DOT) and OUSD Transportation Office.
Central to the collaboration and the program are community engaged partners -- Oakland residents or school staff who serve as the adult Safety Patrol Advisors to student-led Safety Patrol platoons, paid School Based Wellness Champions who uphold school wellness policy and implement safe routes activities, and volunteer Safe Routes Champions who promote walking, biking and rolling, as well as the elementary and middle school students who are may be participants and recipients of the program. SRTS leaders also assist with implentation of education and encouragement programming that iincludes special days that promote active transportation during the school year with activities to sustain and maintain new travel practices. Students are encouraged to walk, bike, skateboard, or scooter to school and practice helmet safety. Furthermore, Oakland's elementary school children are both beneficiaries of and participants in the Safety Patrol program. Although ACNS is the convener of the collaborative partnership, to uphold the value of committed partnership” as the vision states, it is essential to have key institutional partners and community residents as influencers in place year to year to uphold the program.
In 2006, Alameda County Public Health Nutrition Services supported active, Healthy Living Councils, resident cohorts whose purpose was to identify and problem solve barriers to living a healthy lifestyle in Oakland's lowest income neighborhoods with the least resources. Repeatedly, pedestrian safety and traffic related dangers surfaced from neighborhood to neighborhood. In particular, Bella Vista Elementary located in east Oakland (describe neighborhood) sought resources from the Oakland Police Department due to a student hit on his way to school. By 2013, ACNS was able to secure funding to serve up to 41 eligible schools.
The Active Transportation Program, Safe Routes to School collaborative partnership is uniquely designed to meet the needs of high need schools where at least 50% of families are eligible for the USDA Free or Reduced Meal Program (FRPM) in order to:
Administer a Walk and Ride to school program
Deliver Safe Routes to School Champion program
Provide Traffic Safety and Enforcement at school sites
Provide Helmet Safety and institute School Safety Patrols
Though held within the city limits of Oakland, the City of Oakland, Alameda County Public Works (ACPW) department became the fiscal sponsor of the innovative practice as they held an existing Master Contract with the California Transportation Commission. In response to the community need, ACPW has provided in-kind technical assistance to this project for at least five years considering their operational jurisdiction is generally focused on unincorporated areas of Alameda County. Over the years, the ACPW team has supported the capacity building of the ACNS staff and team to respond to the funding body, report on activities and invoice according to the Local Area Procedures Manual which was a new body of policies and procedures ACNS was becoming more familiar with. This practice, however, was a perfect complement to USDA SNAP-Ed Program that also supports the promotion of health and physical activity, in addition to nutrition education, for the families with 185% FPL.
The City of Oakland Police Department (OPD) celebrated the 93rd year of Safety Patrol. This component of the Active Transportation Program is the city's best practice and tradition that has evolved to embrace the public health lens by coupling traffic safety education with youth leadership development, a strategy for violence prevention and injury prevention in and around school sites. Modeled after the east coast Safety Patrols in the 1920's, the East Bay Safety Council organized in Oakland and neighboring cities of Berkeley and Alameda to reduce accidents. This council was comprised of chiefs of police, railway officials, DA, a public health commissioner, school superintendent, auto trade organization (Electric Railway Journal, June 1922). An Oakland survey disclosed serious traffic hazards, and in 1928, the first school Safety Patrol was piloted.
Today, 22 schools with two pending, implement Safety Patrols and are comprised of 3rd through 5th grade Oakland elementray students and their 22 respective adult advisors who become culture keepers of safety on school campuses. They are adorned with bright, lime green hats and sashes, provided in-kind by AAA of Northern CA, Nevada and Utah. Throughout the academic year, rain or shine, the Safety Patrol students arrive at least 30 minutes early to campus to put cones out on the street, hold long stop signs to cover intersections near their schools to ensure safe crossing for families, and have clipboards to note vehicular observations. At the height of the recent programs, student Safety Patrols also engaged in:
Bus Patrols - where Safety Patrollers (SP) walk kids from the fenced area to the bus while we make sure they don't run into the street. [They] count how many kids get on each bus.”
Morning Drop Off Zones - In addition to focus on pedestrian crossing, students at some schools also focus their attention to drop off” areas positioning themselves car lengths apart along the zone. Once cars come to a complete stop, SP opens vehicle doors and greet the driver and their school mate. SP may also walk younger children to class from the drop off zone.
Afternoon Pick Up Zones – Similar to morning drop offs but ensures that cars line up to pick up students leaving school.
Street Crossing -- Safety Patrol students practice pedestrian and traffic safety techniques under guided, adult supervision at key interesections close to their school with high pedestrian traffic.
Leadership and Community Service. Safety Patrol students are ranked similar to traditional law enforcement and hold their roles seriously. They celebrate each other and uplift community by annually participating in community service from peer reading, to tending to sheltered animals, holding food drives, and neighborhood trash pick-up. In 2017, for example, Franklin Elementary School Safety Patrol made lunches with kind notes and distributed them to older adults and the unhoused at Clinton Park in East Oakland.
Team Building Activities. These included an informal partnership with East Bay Regional Parks District to utilize trails for bike rides led by volunteer guides from Youth Mountain Bike Association.
One of the institutional backbones of the Active Transportation Program's innovative, model practice is the Oakland Unified School District Wellness Office. This office is responsible for upholding the district wellness policy and is committed to ATP by committing to recruit adult Safe Routes Wellness Champions. These champions collaborate on specific wellness programs and have ongoing training supported by district, school site staff and administration.
Having OUSD in this dedicated role ensures that Safe Routes nonprofit partner, Transform, is connected to students and families to hold Safe Routes education and engagement activities such as the International Walk and Roll to School Day and International Bike to School Day, Helmet Safety Education, introduction of walking school busses and the engaging Golden Sneaker Contest in the spring highlighting the classroom(s) who walk during a two week period.
The successful results of the collaboration continue to demonstrate that with the key institutional partners, resources continue to support so that youth continue to be exposed to active transportation, take on leadership roles in their school community, and provide safety during the busiest times of the day. We are proud to have had up to 38 active schools with active Safety Patrols during the past 5 years, including Nationally Recognized Life Saving Award by AAA which further increases the likelihood of engagement, education and exposure.