Safety urged as students return to school

Police and street safety advocates are reminding San Francisco drivers that with school back in session starting this week, they need to watch out for children walking to school.

Increased traffic enforcement is expected around schools this week, particularly around some of San Francisco’s most dangerous streets, including in the Mission, Tenderloin and North Beach neighborhoods, according to the pedestrian advocacy group Walk San Francisco.

The efforts are part of The City’s Vision Zero initiative — a goal of eliminating pedestrian fatalities on city streets by 2024. There were 21 pedestrian deaths in San Francisco in 2013.

In response, city leaders have increased street improvements, enforcement and educational campaigns to prevent future fatalities. Many of the recent fatalities have involved school aged children or younger, including the death of a 2-year-old girl struck by a hit-and-run driver last Friday.

Walk SF officials said that it appears many parents are not comfortable that streets are safe enough to have children walk to school, with only 26 percent of students walking despite 42 percent of elementary school students living within walking distance of their school.

Walk SF executive director Nicole Schneider said:

“The top three concerns among parents who choose not to walk or bike with their children to school are related to traffic safety. … The City plays a central role in encouraging families to walk and bike to school by making our streets safer in the first place.”

To that end, The City launched Vision Zero earlier this year and two years ago also was the first city in the nation to set speed limits in all school zones at 15 mph.

Meanwhile, city officials including San Francisco Unified School District superintendent Richard Carranza and Mayor Ed Lee today stopped by several schools to welcome children back on the first day of the new school year and highlight the district’s education initiatives.

The initiatives include support for students in impoverished areas, including preschool services and schools tailored to recent immigrants as well as new science and engineering curriculums, some of which have been developed in collaboration with local technology companies.

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