October was International Walk to School Month and the local incarnation is the Walk and Roll to School program organized by the Sonoma County Bike Coalition as part of the county Safe Routes to School program. The big day was Oct. 8, when schools around Sonoma County celebrated Walk and Roll to School. I volunteered to help out at my son’s school, Pine Crest Elementary School in Sebastopol. I joined another parent and two of the co-owners of our local bike shop, West County Revolution, in helping kids fill out raffle tickets, handing out various goodies, and thanking them for coming to school on their own power. Other parents and the principal led “walking school buses” from the Sebastopol Veterans’ Building to the school 6 blocks away.

The (free) raffle tickets were for bike bells donated by West County Revolution and also served as registration for the kids — the homeroom with the greatest number of participants got a prize.  Although a handful of kids reguarly bike, walk, scooter or skateboard to school (including my son — sometimes under protest!), it was great to see so many more that day.

Wednesdays through the remainder of the year have been designated as Walk and Roll days, with the same chances to win a bike bell or other prizes, though no treats are being given out. I’ve volunteered once more so far and will be out again in early December. The numbers are still larger than on other days, though only a fraction of the crowd on Oct. 8, and as winter sets in, they will likely fall further.

Sebastopol received a Safe Routes to School 3-year grant last year that will translate into “curriculum development, classroom education, special events such as ‘walk and roll to school day’ and bike rodeos.” (City of Sebastopol Community Newsletter). The city is also committing to improving the intersections of Healdsburg Ave. at Murphy, North Main at Analy, and Bodega and High Street as part of its Street Smart Sebastopol Phase II. They plan to install pedestrian-triggered flashing lights both overhead and embedded at street level similar to a pair installed last year by our post office and at the intersection of the Rodota Trail and Petaluma Ave.  I’m especially interested in the High Street intersection since I take my son across it every morning. Although most drivers stop to let us cross, far too many don’t — something that should change when there are flashing lights in front of them.

Other planned improvements under the city’s Safe Streets program include a new sidewalk along a street close to the other elementary school that currently has none and improved signage. All of these should mean more kids getting to school on their own power.