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Chinatown Program to Turn Kids Into Safe Streets “Investigators”

4:45 PM PDT on April 16, 2015

Jean Parker Elementary School students at the Chinatown CDC's Safe Walks to School workshop in 2011. The school will now have a similar regular after-school program. Photo: Deland Chan
Jean Parker Elementary School students at the Chinatown CDC's Safe Walks to School program in 2011. An ongoing after-school program has been announced. Photo: Deland Chan

A new after-school program will teach kids in Chinatown not just how to survive on car-centric streets -- but also how to redesign them.

Students in grades 3 to 5 will learn to act as “city street investigators" in a program launched by the Chinatown YMCA, the Chinatown Community Development Center, the SF Safe Routes to School Partnership, and Walk SF. It will be held in conjunction with a more conventional program teaching students, including grades K-2, how to avoid getting run over by drivers.

"This approach is unique because we’re not stopping at education, we’re thinking of additional ways to empower kids and families with the knowledge they need to assess their transportation system and determine needed improvements to truly achieve Vision Zero and end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2024," said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara in a statement.

Six schools are participating in the program, including Jean Parker Elementary School, which is on Broadway Street, identified by the city as a "high-injury corridor." A plan to redesign Broadway with pedestrian improvements was completed in 2012, though a construction timeline hasn't been announced yet. None of the four traffic lanes would be removed, but the plan includes sidewalk bulb-outs and raised crosswalks at some alleys.

The plan was based on a study of pedestrian safety needs conducted by CCDC in 2009.

“Discussing street redesign in conjunction with upcoming pedestrian safety improvements is an excellent way to build awareness for solutions needed to achieve Vision Zero,” said CCDC senior community organizer Angelina Yu in a statement. “The curriculum conveys important safe walking tips for children who are transit-dependent, but more importantly it empowers them with the vocabulary, toolkit and an urban planning lens for envisioning what safer streets can look like in their neighborhood.”

The SF Unified School District recently endorsed the goal of Vision Zero -- an end to traffic deaths in San Francisco by 2024. With the "city street investigators" program, SFUSD can open kids' eyes -- and by extension, their parents' -- to the importance of street design in determining their safety.

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