Back to School: Safety & Wellness Tips for the Whole Community
Last week marked the start of a new school year for the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD), and over 50% of PAUSD middle and high school students bike to school. With increased bicycle, vehicle, and pedestrian traffic in and around Palo Alto schools and neighborhoods, it’s important to be mindful when on the road. Did you know that there are 16 public schools and 11 private schools in Palo Alto? Please take note that the speed limit is 20-miles-per-hour in school zones. Read on to learn some safety and wellness tips, and other resources and reminders for the whole community to connect, and stay safe in and around Palo Alto.
BIKE & DRIVING SAFETY
Community Reminder: Limit Distractions while Driving or Biking
Distracted driving, biking, and walking is dangerous. Avoid distractions with these tips:
- Don’t use your phone when driving or riding, or even walking
- Plan ahead and leave early. Rushing on the road is unsafe for everyone.
- Only use one earbud at a time. It’s best to stay aware of what’s happening around you.
- Know your route before you go. Looking for directions can be distracting. If you do need to check a map, it’s best to pull over and stop before continuing.
Traffic, Projects & School Zone Updates
There are a few changes to keep in mind as school starts again. First, Palo Verde Elementary School is temporarily at Greendell School. The community should anticipate traffic in this area.
Learn more about routes to Palo Verde Elementary School’s new location.
In addition, the northeast corner of Alma and E. Meadow has an enlarged pedestrian island that is ADA compliant and has an improved pedestrian call button. Be aware of this busy school route corner when planning your commute.
Keep in mind that Palo Alto School Zones have a new lower 20 mph speed limit. You may want to leave earlier than usual to accommodate the new speed limit.
Learn more about Back to School Safety Reminders.
Bike Safety Reminders
Choose the Right Route
Practicing your route ahead of time can help prepare you for your ride. Plan to ride on streets with trees or buildings that block the sun, and avoid high-traffic areas when possible. There are suggested route maps for all PAUSD schools available at www.cityofpaloalto.org/saferoutes.
No matter your route- avoid biking too close to parked cars and follow all rules of the road. Stop at stop signs and be alert at all intersections. Ride in the same direction as traffic flow and use caution when making turns.
If you notice problems on your commute such as potholes, debris in the roadway, tree limbs down, or a place where a bike rack is needed, use Palo Alto 311 (the app or the website) to report them.
Learn more about safe routes to Palo Alto schools.
Wear a Properly Fitted Helmet
California law requires anyone under the age of 18 to wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet when riding a bicycle, scooter, skateboard, or skates. Wearing a helmet reduces head injuries in the event of a crash, but in order to be effective, it must be properly fitted. Follow these four easy steps to find the right fit: Snug, Eyes, Ears, Mouth.
If your helmet has been in a crash or is older than 4 years, it’s time for a replacement. When shopping for a new helmet, look for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) certification sticker and check the helmet’s fit before purchasing. Never buy a used helmet and always remove your hat before putting on a helmet.
Additional helmet safety tips are available here (under General Safety tips).
Complete the ABC Quick Check Before You Ride
Checking your bike before you ride will help you avoid unseen dilemmas on the road. Use the ABC Quick check to make sure your bike is functioning properly before each ride.
A is for air: Check the air pressure, spin the wheels and make sure the tires are not worn out.
B is for brakes: Check to make sure coaster brakes will stop the bike by spinning the back wheel and applying the brake. If the bike has hand brakes check to see that the levers don’t hit the handlebars when squeezed. Lift one tire up at a time and spin it; squeeze the levers to see if the tire stops. The brake pads should be clean, straight, and have proper contact with the rims.
C is for cranks, chain, and cogs: Grab the crank arms and try to wiggle side to side (there should be no movement). Spin the pedals and cranks to see if the chain drives the rear wheel. The chain shouldn’t look rusted or dirty. If the bike has gears check to make sure the gear levels and derailleurs work to shift the chain between gears.
Quick is for Quick Release: Some bikes have quick releases on the wheels or the seat post. Check to make sure they are tight and closed properly.
Once you’ve completed the steps above, check to make sure that the seat and handlebars are tight and in the proper height. It’s a good idea to ride the bicycle around a safe area to ensure everything is working well before you leave.
Watch a video demonstration of the ABC Quick Check here.
Be visible on the road
Bikers can improve their safety by increasing their visibility. Wearing bright-colored clothing, safety jackets, and bike lights are great ways to be more visible. By law you need a white front headlight and a red rear reflector on your bike (although a red rear light is recommended).
Sun Glare Blindness can impact visibility for both drivers and bikers. If you’re struggling to see the road ahead, drivers are probably struggling to see as well. In situations with dangerously low visibility, it may be safer to stop, get off your bike, and walk on the sidewalk.
More information on road visibility is available here (under General Safety Tips).
Tips to Avoid Bike Theft
Most bike thefts are crimes of opportunity. Prevent bike theft by properly locking your bike every time you leave it. U-locks are recommended as cable locks can be cut quickly. Practice using your lock to ensure proper placement and ease of use. Whenever possible, lock through the frame and wheel of your bicycle. Lock to a secure bike rack and avoid locking to fences or other structures that can be easily cut. Always lock your bike- even when you’re leaving it in a bike cage that will be locked during the day. Never leave your bike overnight.
You can also register with the Bike Index for added security in case your bike is stolen. First, find your bike’s serial number (which is usually stamped into the metal of the bottom bracket on the underside of the bike) and take a picture of your bike. Then, register your bike for free with BikeIndex.org and join the City of Palo Alto group. If your bike ever goes missing, log into your account and mark it stolen. If your bike is recovered, you’ll be notified.
View information on preventing bike theft here (under General Safety Tips).
Be Prepared in Case of Collision
Thousands of people ride bicycles in Palo Alto every day, and bike/car collisions are rare. It’s good to have a plan just in case.
If you are physically injured or experiencing pain, call 9–1–1 for help.
If you are not experiencing pain and believe you are not injured, call the Palo Alto Police Department 24-hour Dispatch Center at 650–329–2413.
It is often difficult for people who have just been in a collision to determine if they have been injured. This is particularly true for children and adolescents. The Palo Alto Police Department recommends students always call either the police or their parents if they are riding a bike and involved in a collision with a car. Remain at the scene until help arrives, no matter who might be at fault. While filing a police report is not required in all cases, reporting helps the Safe Routes to School team identify problem areas and work with City staff and others to improve safety for all road users. Please consider filing a report if you are in a collision.
If you have a phone, consider adding the PAPD 24-hour Dispatch Center number (650–329–2413) to your contacts. If you don’t have a phone, write it down and keep it in your backpack or wallet. It’s also a good idea to keep emergency contact information (such as your name and who to contact in case of emergency) on you when biking or walking.
Learn more about what to do if you’re involved in a bicycle collision here (under General Safety Tips).
Safety Tips for Drivers
Watch for new cyclists
With school now in session, the community may experience an increased level of bicycle traffic and pedestrians walking to and from school on Palo Alto streets, especially in and around local schools. Be aware of new cyclists and take extra precautions when driving.
You can keep yourself and others safe by always following traffic laws and obeying adult crossing guards. Reduce your speed, especially when approaching intersections and corners, and watch out for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists, and allow them extra space.
WELLNESS TIPS & RESOURCES FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
Transitioning between summer to returning to school can be tough. Check out some tips to support wellness and well-being for the whole family.
CDC COVID-19 Guidance
The CDC recommends masking in high-risk situations, staying up to date on vaccinations, and practicing proper personal hygiene. If community members are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or any other transmissible condition, they should stay home.
Learn more about COVID-19 resources.
National Wellness Month
August is National Wellness Month and a perfect opportunity to focus on community health and well-being, especially during back-to-school season. As students, families, and neighborhoods get used to a new routine, prioritizing wellness will help build a foundation for long-term success. Here are a few ways to focus on wellness this month and all year long.
Try out the new outdoor exercise equipment at Rinconada Park or sign up for a free virtual meditation class with the Art Center. Discover new recreation opportunities (like tennis classes for all ages!) or new volunteer opportunities (like volunteering at the Junior Museum & Zoo!). Reconnect with nature at one of Palo Alto’s beautiful preserves, or join a fun activity at your local Library.
Find these opportunities and more in our National Wellness Month blog.
Supporting students with homework and tests is no easy feat- but it can make a world of difference in their education. Here are a few ideas to maximize the effectiveness of homework time.
Routine is key. Doing homework in the same place, at the same time, helps students settle into study-mode. Make sure the designated homework area is distraction-free and avoid distractions in other spaces as well.
Lead by Example. Students perform best when they have adult support. Praise their effort and motivate them when needed. Set an example of how to focus at home and consider working on your own projects while they study.
Learn more about supporting kids with homework.
Continue the wellness conversation at the Palo Alto Community Health Fair happening this Sunday. This year’s outdoor event focuses on health care for children and families. It features health talks, non-profit groups, a Palo Alto fire truck, Humane Society therapy dogs, a bike ride, and more!
Learn more about the event.
This weekend is also the last concert of summer as part of the Twilight Concert Series! Join neighbors and new friends this Saturday.
Learn more about the Boys of Summer Concert at Mitchell Park here.
More Online Resources
Learn more about bicycling and walking in Palo Alto here.
Register for the Bike Index here.
Find educational resources about walking, biking, transit, and carpooling here.
View upcoming events on the City calendar.
Connect with the City of Palo Alto on social media.
Find information about your local Library here.
Sign up for City updates here.